To go or not to go? Conferences for early career scientists

– By Ville Nenonen –

This blog post was originally meant to tell my experiences during my secondment at Utrecht University at October 2022. During the secondment, I had the plan to present my work at the Utrecht University and at the Wageningen University. However, due to catching Covid-19, I had to stay most of the time at my Airbnb and there was unfortunately much to share from that experience. I would thus like to take this opportunity to share my experiences on attending conferences as an early career scientist. Over the course of P-TRAP, I had the opportunity to attend multiple conferences. This year April, I was at European Geosciences Union (EGU) general assembly in Vienna, and last year September at Interfaces against pollution (IAP) in Antwerp.

Giving a presentation about iron, organic matter and phosphate interactions at Interfaces against pollution (IAP) conference in Antwerp (September 2022). Photo: M. Ma Oral presentation about how the aging of Fe(III)- and Ca-precipitate affects the P retention at the EGU 2023.

Attending a scientific conference can be a rewarding experience for early career researchers. These events provide a platform to come together and share the latest research findings, new trends, and network with colleagues from around the world. Some of the benefits of attending a scientific conference is the opportunity to learn about the latest developments in your field, and the opportunity to present your research as a poster, or as an oral presentation.

After deciding which conference to go, the first step is to write an abstract that is usually a couple of hundreds of words. The deadline to submit the abstract is commonly a couple of months before the conference. You should also take your time to book the accommodation well in advance. Especially during the larger conferences, hotels near the venue get booked really fast.

Before the conference, take your time in advance to prepare your talk or poster pitch well. It is a good idea also screen in advance which talks you would like to attend and what posters you would like to see, and maybe read some of the work of anyone you would like to discuss with after the oral sessions.

Visiting Schönbrunn castle in Vienna during the ESPC conference

Some conferences are very large, such as EGU with tens of thousands of participants, covering all fields of geosciences. Others, such as IAP are much smaller and focused on narrower field. You may meet potential collaborators, future employers, or simply connect with colleagues who share your research interests. Size does not matter; actually, smaller conferences can have an advantage in networking. Lots of networking can happen spontaneously over a coffee break, poster presentations, or at a dinner after the session. Also, take advantage of the free food, coffee, and cookies during the breaks. Sometimes there are unfortunately no cookies and the coffee is burned. Another good idea is to attend the social events, such as excursions or conference parties. These are a chance to meet people in more relaxed setting.

Finally, scientific conferences provide an opportunity to travel to new places and experience different cultures. Many conferences are held in interesting locations, and attending the conference can give an opportunity to explore a new city or country. It is not all about work, you should also take your time, relax, and do some sightseeing.

In conclusion, attending a scientific conference can be a rewarding experience for early career researchers. From learning about the latest research developments to networking with colleagues and presenting your own research. Therefore, if you have the opportunity to attend a scientific conference, take it – you never know what opportunities it may bring!

Having a lunch together in Vienna during the European sustainable phosphorus conference (ESPC) in June 2022!