Saturday, May 31, 2008

Double-Dipping with Conference Papers: The Snail's Way of Networking

In the May 20, 2008, issue of Inside Higher Ed, Scott Jaschik writes in a piece titled, "Double Dipping in Conference Papers," about a debate among political scientists concerning whether one should be presenting new material at each conference in which one participates. If one presents what is essentially the same paper repeatedly, should tenure and promotion committees view this as CV "padding"? Opinions are divided, some seeing this as a non-issue, and entirely up to the scholar if he/she wishes to represent the same material to different audiences, while others see it as unfair:
"The traditional reason given for double presentations — getting feedback and then revising — remains a strong justification, according to the articles in the journal. But many question whether in fact such revisions are taking place, as opposed to other motivations (such as CV padding). A variety of ethical issues are raised: Is this fair at a time that major conferences are turning away record number of paper proposals? Do those who fill résumés in this way gain an unfair edge over those who give fewer (but perhaps more original) papers? Do those who double dip have an obligation to flag the practice?"

My comments and questions are largely based on personal experience, and I wonder if others would concur or take exception, or note other differences.

It is fairly rare, from what I have understood of the Canadian academic context, for one's conference presentations to be given much if any weight at all where hiring, tenure, and promotion decisions are concerned. One reason for that is that many conferences have a high acceptance rate, in some cases that can be 100%, and I know of at least one association in Canada that deliberately commits itself to total acceptance. Therefore, it is not seen as a major achievement to have been accepted to present at a conference, to begin with. Why anyone would want to "pad" their CV on this score becomes a little dubious. Moreover, when instructed on where to list one's conference papers in one's CV, typically instructions by tenure committees and granting agencies have us place them towards the end of the CV, which again underscores the kind of importance which they are given.

Secondly, one has to wonder about the real intentions behind presenting the same paper more than once. One reason to wonder is that conference attendance can be expensive. In my experience, which dates back to well before I obtained my doctoral degree, the average expenditure was in the $800-$1,100 US range. Moreover, one sometimes has to wait months between conferences. Then, at the conference itself, you discover that you are presenting on the Saturday morning of the last day of the event, or on the first day, at 8:00am -- or at the same time as a group of world-famous big wigs -- and the number of panelists might rival the number of audience members. In other words, this hardly seems to be a cost-effective, efficient, or even logical way to proceed in obtaining peer review. My suspicion is that we might grasp at respectable and professional-sounding reasons to cover for more mundane reasons, for example: "I will probably never see Helsinki if I don't go to this conference," or, "I inflated the budget in my grant application, and I really need to spend this money, so why not see Australia while I am at it?" or something else.

I do think that international, via air, conference participation will diminish, if it has not done so already, if for no other reason than the various fuel surcharges that place the purchase of airline tickets increasingly out of reach. That one spent, perhaps, a total of $2,500 US to just read a paper for 15 minutes, might cause some individuals to feel embarrassment, knowing that at the end of the year, or at the end of a grant, someone may be reviewing how the money was spent.

What troubles me is that efforts to cast double-dipping as an "increased peer review measure" appear disingenuous. Why not email the paper to a listserv, or individually to dozens of academics who belong to an association? Why not post the paper online?

And this is what I have discovered in my experience: posting a paper online can get you years of feedback. In some cases, the papers themselves may end up being cited -- I have a couple of decidedly non-peer reviewed papers online which have been cited in several respected publications -- and my own peer reviewed work in print that is cited by no one (continuing this particular line of discussion will take me away from the topic of this post).

Finally, having seen, on multiple occasions, the process and results of e-mail seminars organized by the media anthropology network of the European Association for Social Anthropology (EASA) -- with one wrapping up as I type this -- it seems that far more effective and widespread feedback is obtained, at virtually no cost, compared to the typical conference paper that moves on feet. Moreover, there is no need for repetition -- the duplication effort is covered by people making copies, transmitting copies of the paper further afield, etc.

I do not think one can outright "ban" conference attendance, and in some cases it can be well worth attending in-person conferences for a variety of reasons. However, given these newer possibilities afforded by the Internet, I would hope that more individuals would at least feel the need to rationalize their choices, especially if and when they draw on public funds, and to minimize their financial demands on the public and their impacts on the environment.

So, my question is very different from what is in the article cited above -- simply put, it's not whether double-dipping is unethical on scholastic grounds, the question is: why would you even bother doing so?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Sorry Anthony, I can't figure out how to add titles to each post; it's strange the title box isn't there by default.

However, I am happy to post a recent notice about new Environmental Guidelines and some 'greening' initiatives the Association of Canadian Archivists (ACA) has begun for their upcoming conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick:

Association of Canadian Archivists Environmental Initiatives

The Association of Canadian Archivists is pleased to announce the adoption of Environmental Guidelines for the Association. The guidelines are available at on the ACA website at: . In recognition that the ACA's activities impact the environment, we are working on reducing these effects where possible.

This year, the ACA is focused on "greening" the conference. Here are a few of the initiatives that we have implemented for the upcoming conference:
- selecting a conference site and hotel that is certified by the eco-labelling program TheGreenKey
- offering electronic registration
- providing access to the conference program and all conference information on the ACA website
- reducing packaging and waste by eliminating the production and distribution of a conference bag
- reusing name tags and lanyards
- reusing signage, where appropriate
- limiting distribution of brochures and handouts
- requesting that the hotel use reusable dishes, cutlery and linens where appropriate
- requesting that the hotel provide beverages in bulk (rather than in individual disposable containers), whenever feasible
- distributing the conference proceedings on the ACA website

What can delegates do?
- print and pack the conference information that you will need from the ACA website i.e. the conference program
- bring a reusable beverage bottle or coffee mug
- bring pens and paper
- turn off any lights, tv, air conditioner or heater when you leave your accommodation for the day
- recycle your waste, where feasible
- participate in any energy-saving options offered by your accommodation, such as reusing sheets and towels, if possible

I don't know a whole lot about TheGreenKey (, but their criteria for inclusion looks pretty solid. I like the idea of selecting a conference site that has been evaluated for its environmental responsibility. And with first-hand experience, I can say the online registration and conference schedule has been excellent, and wonderfully easy.

More on this shortly...

If anyone has any idea how to put title headings on the posts, please get in touch. According to the editing interface the titles are there, but in the template they aren't ... ?

The word verification should be gone soon.

Learning more about presentations?

Maybe it's time that academics started looking a little more closely at the business world of presentations and conferences? Yes, there can be excesses there (all pzazz and dazzleblast), but we have our own excesses, too (and being seriously scholarly of course requires that we present anything in as boring a fashion as is humanly possible).

At the very least, people in business often have their heads tapped into what works in presentations as far as learning is concerned. I just came across what looks like a great site, and a great book, by all accounts, Brain Rules, that is doing the rounds among business heads in the US. It's the work of Dr. John Medina, a specialist in neurogenetics (I just made that term up, hope it exists), and it's fun, and informative, and really helpful. A lot of the stuff up there is really helpful (and scarily provocative in a scarily obvious way) for thinking about teaching methods generally (sitting still for hours on end can't be good for us).

Another site to look at is:

Directly related to this blog is the following ...

Seth Godin's Blog: The new standard for meetings and conferences

"If oil is $130 a barrel and if security adds two or three hours to a trip and if people are doing more and more business with those far afield...

and if we need to bring together more people from more places when we get together...

and if the alternatives, like video conferencing or threaded online conversations continue to get better and better, then...

I think the standard for a great meeting or a terrific conference has changed.

In other words, "I flew all the way here for this?" is going to be far more common than it used to be. ..." more

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm a new poster to the blog, so I think I should start with a short explanation.

Anthony has helped stir some discussion about the environmental impact of conferences on the Society for Ethnomusicology Email list. His most recent post got me thinking about what will be my first conference this summer, the Association of Canadian Archivists conference in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Coming from Halifax, Nova Scotia, the conference is not extraordinarily far for me, which is a big part of why I'm going, but there will be participants coming from all over. The conference, which runs from June 11-14th, is preceded by two days of workshops, tours, and other events (which I will not be attending).

Needless to say, I am very much looking forward to the trip, and I'll be blogging about the environmental impact of the conference, efforts made to reduce that impact, our trip there, and the general impact conferences like this have on the environment.

Thanks Anthony, for setting this up!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Anthony, you've been busy. Thanks for the readings and links.

Here's one more: a post at No Impact Man that links to the 350 project (

It quotes James Hansen: "We must begin to move now toward the era beyond fossil fuels. Continued growth of greenhouse gas emissions, for just another decade, practically eliminates the possibility of near-term return of atmospheric composition beneath the tipping level for catastrophic effects."

I've set a personal goal of using one tank of gas (12 gallons) per month in my Mini Cooper, and using a bike for as many local trips as possible, including biking to work each day, and car-pooling more often for trips that are too far to bike.

Ambivalence sets in, however, once I get to work and continue planning an event for the fall in honor of two colleagues who are retiring. It matters to have lots of people physically present to celebrate decades of work by two inspirational professors by playing music. I can imagine that for others the academic conference serves an equally important purpose. This hasn't been my experience so far.

From Open Anthropology, a blog posting on the ethics of conference attendance:

For a critique of ecotourism that may also provoke uncomfortable questions about academic conference travel and about anthropologically-oriented fieldwork ...

Rosaleen Duff. 2002. A Trip Too Far: Ecotourism, Politics and Exploitation.

It's available on google books.

There's a review of it here:

"The author was anguished to discover that ecotourism is like many other human activities. It is does not deliver on all the promises that people make for it, not all the people are nice and not everyone benefits. The biggest surprise to the author was that “ecotourists reveal that they are primarily concerned about the ways in which their holidays affect them as individuals (p. xi).” This point really disturbed the novice researcher as she exclaimed that “self-satisfaction is still the ecotourist's over-riding concern (p. 40).” "

Another article of relevance:

"Hot Air Emitted by Climate Summit Equals 20,000 Cars (Update1)

By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman
Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Government officials and activists flying to Bali, Indonesia, for the United Nations meeting on climate change will cause as much pollution as 20,000 cars in a year.

The delegates each will produce an average 4.07 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, to reach the resort island 950 kilometers (600 miles) from Jakarta, according to estimates e- mailed to Bloomberg by the UN agency holding the conference.

Some of the 187 nations participating in the two-week forum promised to offset their so-called carbon footprint by planting trees or buying emission credits. The symbolic actions won't help stop global warming, some scientists say.
``It's very hard for the public to understand that you come together with so many people to a very distant place and cause a lot of emissions, and at the same time talk about emission reductions,'' Artur Runge-Metzger, head of climate strategy for the European Commission, said yesterday in an interview in Bali, adding that he had offset his own emissions."

Apparently Swiss Re, IKEA, the David Suzuki Foundation and others have started using video-conferencing to reduce business air travel. A report on the ins and outs of video-conferencing as compared with face-to-face meetings has been compiled by the University of Bradford for British Telecom and can be read online:

Measuring the Carbon Footprint of Academic Travel

Five Lancaster Environment Centre researchers have travelled to the European Geosciences Union (EGU) General Assembly in Vienna by train to raise awareness of the environmental impact of academic travel. Their initiative was sponsored by the Department of Environmental Science and the Faculty of Science and Technology.


Higher Education Tackling Travel's Environmental Impact

June 27, 2007 - Leaders of more than 300 U.S. colleges and universities pledged to measure greenhouse gas emissions from all institution-funded air travel and consider carbon-offset policies as part of "a broad, continuous, higher education effort on climate change." Designed to help pursue full carbon neutrality, the American College & University Presidents Climate Commitment aims to include more than 1,000 institutions by 2009.

A group of 12 university presidents hatched the formal effort last October at Arizona State University, during an Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education conference. This month, organizers publicly launched ACUPCC at a summit meeting in Washington. Through 2009, the group will work to attract additional signatories and establish "a broad, continuous, higher education effort on climate change." The framework is modeled on the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement, which has been signed by more than 400 mayors.

By signing the document, collegiate leaders committed their institutions to completing within one year and updating annually a "comprehensive inventory of all greenhouse gas emissions (including emissions from electricity, heating, commuting and air travel)." ACUPCC organizers suggest participants use a "campus" version of a carbon calculator furnished by Clean Air-Cool Planet, which helps users tabulate emissions from both faculty/staff travel and student programs.


3. Current emission levels might be reduced through innovations such as by redesigning academic conferences to take place online, as "virtual" conferences, in which (for example) all participants participate through Webcams. Ideas to capture the benefit of realtime, personal contact include
(a) a virtual "hotel bar" (BYOB!) and
(b) lecture presentation screens in which all attendees appear as thumbnail images, so that participants can see who else is attending a presentation, raise their hand, and communicate directly with each other. While obviously sacrificing some of the benefits of more direct contact, perhaps such innovations will offer some advantages in addition to helping achieve sustainability.

Andrew Biggin of the University of Utrecht writes in Nature's Correspondence (Nature 448, 749; 2007):
Many of the world's most reputable and best-placed scientific organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Royal Society, the American Geophysical Union and the American Meteorological Society, have released strong and unequivocal statements regarding the dangers the world's population faces as anthropogenic climate change gains pace. Although such statements are effective in informing public opinion and thereby influencing policy on this important issue, they are not the most powerful means available.
A more potent approach would be for scientific organizations to make ambitious, high-profile moves to reduce their own contributions to climate change. Such activity could generate significant publicity and demonstrate that the organizations are taking the threat of climate change seriously. They would send a louder, clearer message that emissions reduction should be a priority.
Such moves, although necessarily bold, should not impair the organizations' abilities to achieve their primary aims. Rather, they should publicly demonstrate that reductions in any organization's environmental impact need not reduce its effectiveness. One example would be the more widespread inclusion of video-conferencing facilities in oral sessions at scientific meetings. Another could be the introduction of 'virtual poster sessions' with live audio connections.
If well-implemented, such measures would actually increase the effectiveness of a meeting while reducing its environmental impact. In particular, those who would otherwise not attend could now participate, which would lead to an increase both in the dissemination of research findings and in the interaction between members of the organization.

Environmental impacts of an international conference Hischier R.; Hilty L.
Environmental Impact Assessment ReviewVolume 22, Issue 5, October 2002, Pages 543-557

Sustainability in the Information Society

1. Introduction

A conference in the conventional form is a very resource-demanding process with considerable environmental impacts. As the host of the 15th International Environmental Informatics Symposium, held in Zurich, October 10–12, 2001, EMPA assessed the effectiveness of different measures to reduce the environmental impact of the conference using the life cycle assessment (LCA) method.

During the preparation of the conference, we considered the following measures to make the symposium more “environmentally friendly”:

(1)Reducing the conference materials produced for the participants to a minimum, but keeping the proceedings in book form.

(2)Eliminating the proceedings in book form, and giving participants a CD ROM instead.

(3)Holding a virtual conference to which no one travels, as all speeches and discussions could be offered on the Internet.

[3] was included as a hypothetical scenario because we were not in a position to completely “virtualize” the conference. However, this scenario gave us some interesting insights that could be worth considering in the organization of future conferences.

This study dealt exclusively with the direct environmental impacts caused by holding the conference, and did not deal with the—hopefully positive—indirect environmental effects that resulted from the fact that the conference promoted scientific progress and personal contacts. Of course, we are of the opinion that these indirect effects of an environmental informatics conference make a great contribution towards solving environmental problems. We want to demonstrate with this LCA study how a comparably positive effect could be had with less environmental impact.


5. Results and interpretation
The organizer of a conference can—first of all—influence the amount and kind of materials (e.g. printed matter) produced for organizing and holding the conference. We assumed that distributing a printed call for papers (besides e-mail distribution) as well as a printed program brochure is still inevitable in order to motivate enough people to submit papers to the conference and to participate. However, it is possible to reduce the additional printed material usually handed out to conference participants (city maps, notepads, all kind of booklets, as well as the bag holding all the conference materials) to a minimum.


when we look at the environmental impact caused by participants' travel, the discussion about the conference materials appears insignificant in comparison. The travel activities of the participants account for 96.3% of the total environmental load of the conference, the remaining 3.6% including, among other things, the full paper proceedings in book form and a simple cotton bag.


one alternative that would avoid the travel activities almost completely is a virtual conference, where all presentations and discussions are offered via the Internet. ... Obviously, this type of meeting would result in a huge reduction of the total environmental impact, even if we assume that more people would participate and that all of them would print out relevant parts of the proceedings.


On the other hand, one important function of a conference is to make direct personal contact with other participants possible—something that modern information technology has not yet been able to replace.

Taking this into account, a third alternative comes to mind which might deserve consideration in the future: a decentralized conference which takes place at several locations that can be reached with much less air travel, which are connected to one another live by suitable telecommunication facilities. Then the experience of direct contact to a smaller group would be available, and a global dialog would still be possible.


Under the assumption that the audience would be the same, the environmental load attributable to travel activities is more or less halved, while the rest of the is constant. Of course, it is more plausible that this form of conference would attract more people from the American and the Asian area than the Zurich conference because it could be accessed more easily. This would result in an increase of the absolute environmental load caused by the conference, while the environmental load per capita should remain roughly the same. This would be a typical example of the so-called rebound effect.


The environmental impact of an international conference such as “Environmental Informatics 2001” is clearly dominated by the travel activities of the participants. Among travel activities, the long-range flights are the dominant element. Minimizing air travel is, thus, the only way to attain a significant reduction in environmental impact.


Hot Air Emitted by Climate Summit Equals 20,000 Cars (Update1)

By Alex Morales and Kim Chipman

Dec. 6 (Bloomberg) -- Government officials and activists flying to Bali, Indonesia, for the United Nations meeting on climate change will cause as much pollution as 20,000 cars in a year.
The delegates each will produce an average 4.07 metric tons of carbon dioxide, or CO2, to reach the resort island 950 kilometers (600 miles) from Jakarta, according to estimates e- mailed to Bloomberg by the UN agency holding the conference.

Some of the 187 nations participating in the two-week forum promised to offset their so-called carbon footprint by planting trees or buying emission credits. The symbolic actions won't help stop global warming, some scientists say.

"It's very hard for the public to understand that you come together with so many people to a very distant place and cause a lot of emissions, and at the same time talk about emission reductions,'' Artur Runge-Metzger, head of climate strategy for the European Commission, said yesterday in an interview in Bali, adding that he had offset his own emissions.

Due to family circumstances I have decided to cancel foreign conference-going for the summer, and do you know what? It doesn't seem to have affected my life negatively whatsoever, and no one seems to have even noticed. Makes me think that a lot of conferences are quite frankly unnecessary. Maybe now I might have time to actually write my ideas down so that people can actually read them ... (not forgetting the extra time that I will have learning how to be locally placed in relationships with people I could know better).

Thursday, May 08, 2008

From Wired news: "Airline Emissions: Even Worse Than You Think"

Each news item like this makes me return to the question of the environmental cost vs. academic benefit of conferences.