Conferences and Codes of Conduct

Nearly every organization has a code of conduct for its employees. These codes are usually explicit rules about what the organization’s members are and aren’t allowed to do, including the penalties – from reprimands to firing – for breaking those rules. Often there are also statements of the organization’s guiding values and principles, which employees are expected to uphold in carrying out their work or making decisions. But when employees go to professional events like conferences – events related to work but which take place outside the workplace – the rules of behaviour aren’t always as clear.

Behaviour at conferences is something that I’ve been thinking about as conference season is starting for me. Every year, away from the watchful eyes of their supervisors and their human resources department, some people act like idiots. They might do things like ask questions during a seminar or presentation with the sole intention of making the presenter look bad and making themselves look good. Or they might harass other conference attendees, usually at social events, by doing things like looking down women’s tops, making inappropriate comments about how someone is dressed, or uttering racist or sexist insults (I’ve personally witnessed all of these).

Surprisingly, though, many conference organizers are reluctant to crack down on these kinds of behaviours by attendees. (more…)

Is Peer Review Truly Unbiased?

During conference season, when you’re rushing from session to session, peer review is something you often hear about in snatches of conversation as you’re running by. “[Professor X] must have reviewed that paper, otherwise it would have been accepted”. Or “I knew getting in at [Journal Y] was a problem because they don’t like [Theory Z]”.

Peer review can have a really big effect on someone’s academic career, because (more…)

Is Twitter Killing Discussion at Conferences?: Notes from the Field

In my work world right around now, the regular academic year winds up and the rush toward convocation begins. And it’s also the start of conference season. The hard work of getting to conferences started long ago – early January is usually the deadline for submitting papers to summertime conferences. But now it’s time to agonize over your Powerpoints, jump on the plane, and stand up in front of your peers and talk about your research. (more…)