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My work got accepted into a very good category in a very good conference in my field. Due to complicated visa issues it will be very hard for me to attend that conference.

If I don't attend the conference they are certainly going to remove my work from the proceedings.

I am worried I won't be able to claim any sort of achievement if I don't attend this conference.

Can I still add it to my CV and specify that my work got accepted in this conference in a very good category?

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When I was a PhD student, another PhD student was asked to give an oral presentation for a complete stranger who couldn't attend. I think his supervisor knew the other scientist. –  gerrit Feb 22 at 0:42
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Major ideas have been delivered by stand ins. Pauli sent an assistant to deliver his suggestions that the beta decay spectrum might be explained by a light, uncharged third particle (i.e. what became known as the neutrino). –  dmckee Feb 22 at 4:17
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@gerrit I've heard this practice called "Powerpoint Karaoke". –  Federico Poloni Feb 22 at 7:57
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@FedericoPoloni PowerPoint Karaoke requires you to give a presentation using slides you never got a chance to see – usually from a field you never heard about. That may happen in these situations, but in PPK, it’s officially intended, so while the comical value may be the same, I think there still is some difference. –  Christopher Creutzig Feb 23 at 15:10

7 Answers 7

If your paper gets withdrawn, then there may be no public record that it ever was accepted (and if there were, it could potentially be misconstrued as a withdrawel for other reasons). I can't say I've ever seen such an item on a CV.

On the other hand, even if you cannot make it to the conference in person, you can try to either:

a) have someone else give the talk in your place.

b) give the talk via telecommunication, e.g. Skype.

Both options are certainly not too unusual in my field (theoretical computer science/math). If you have to go for the second one, make sure not to leave contacting the conference organizers for the last moment, and be aware that this causes quite some work for them. If you can provide enough detail on your visa issues that it is clear that it's not just "You waited too long to apply", most people will be quite understanding.

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+1 Most conference organizers are aware of possible visa issues for people coming into their country, and many conference organizers "hate" their countries for that. So they'll understand. At my last conference, there was a similar issue, but not with visa, rather with a sudden illness. –  tohecz Feb 23 at 8:44
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Pro-tip: if you decide on a Skype presentation (which is actually preferable to having someone else give the talk on your behalf), you should give your talk as if you were actually at the conference venue (because you are there; its just that Skype extends the location of the venue). That means, deliver it from an university room (i.e., not your bedroom), wear conference-appropriate clothing, clear all other appointments for the morning/afternoon, look directly into the webcam, etc. –  Koldito Mar 1 at 17:15

You will need to find some way to have the paper presented. At the most recent conference I attended, a speaker was unable to attend for visa reasons and sent in a video talk. That talk was played back by a friend who also took some (simple) questions.

At pretty much every conference I've been to in the past few years in the US at least one person has had visa trouble, so it's not uncommon at all. But you will need to do due diligence to try and get the visa as far as possible. Once that fails, then the above three suggestions (someone else, a skype talk, a video talk) become available, depending on what the conference organizers want.

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As I'm not in a field where we publish through conferences, I'm curious about the first option. Is the substitute expected to be someone who worked on the project, who can give a useful talk and answer questions? Or, in order to get the paper into the proceedings, is it sufficient to have a pro forma talk, where J. Random Attendee stands up and reads from the paper until time expires? How is this normally handled? –  Nate Eldredge Feb 22 at 3:17
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you really do have to make a strenuous effort to present it yourself. it's not enough to get J. R. A to present "to get it into the proceedings". In fact some venues now require one author of each paper to register. In any case, the best option is the first one, or someone who's very familiar with the work. I've never seen a random person present someone's work. –  Suresh Feb 22 at 5:51
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If you really can't make it, despite good faith effort, the talk should be given by someone who understands your paper. The speaker is still representing you and your work, so pro forma nonsense reflects badly on you. –  JeffE Feb 22 at 5:52
    
@NateEldredge Quite often you have people in the audience who understand the topic quite well. For me (TCS/Math), this means that they understand well the important results and they are able to see why the problem is complicated, as well as that they are aware of related topics. If there's a general friendliness in the area, these people are willing to give the talk or at least answer the questions, and it makes sense in the end. –  tohecz Feb 23 at 8:47

This happened in my lab. The solution was to either present the work by a co-author, or present the work by a lab mate that was attending the conference.

Pay attention that in the second case (non-author, lab mate) you need to get in touch with the conference staff in order to expose the case to them and make sure they agree. Some conferences consider it a paper withdrawal when none of the co-authors attends the conference to present the work. Also, you will still have to pay the author fees, even if you can't assist to the conference.

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I recently gave a presentation at a conference on behalf of a colleague who was unable to attend, so it's certainly a possibility in at least some fields (I'm in theoretical computer science). I had nothing to do with the research, but I do know the person, so I was able to talk to them beforehand and get a decent briefing on the material.

If you know some of the other attendees, that may be a possible route to getting your work presented. In my experience of glancing at the rules of various conference (all CS though), there is only a requirement that the work is presented - it doesn't strictly say by whom, and that at least one of the authors registers.

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As you know, most conferences accept papers on the condition that one of the authors attends the conference to give a presentation. Of course, sometimes things come up and somebody who planned to attend cannot; organizers are sympathetic to that, as discussed in the other answers.

However, I think it's worth pointing out that, if you knew at the time of submitting the paper that getting a visa would be difficult or impossible, you should probably have agreed that one of your co-authors would attend the conference from the start. If all your co-authors were in the same situation, it would, I think, have been best to contact the organizers for advice before submitting.

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Have you considered converting your presentation to a poster? If the conference organisers have accepted your presentation as a talk, then they should - I expect - accept a poster from you on the same topic, even if you can't attend owing to your visa difficulties.

If you submit a poster, your contribution will at least be on record. Additionally, you might be able to convince someone at the conference - via your network of collaborators - to spend a few precious minutes of their presentation talk to advertise your poster, adding, perhaps, that but for your visa difficulties, you would have been in attendance to present your work orally.

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Just to forestall comments to the same effect: I fully realise that a poster has less impact at a conference than an oral presentation. I offer the suggestion of a poster as an additional option to the OP which he/she might in turn suggest to the conference LOC. –  Nicholas Oct 2 at 20:31

I have encountered multiple instances of this. Once, the airlines messed up my connections so badly that I did not make it to the conference (which was in a remote region) although I had given myself 48 hours "leeway" for just that eventuality. We ended up setting up a Skype connection (voice only - the internet connection was quite poor) and the talk was well received. I have to say though, that not seeing your audience and gaging their reaction / understanding is a HUGE barrier to effective delivery.

On another occasion, a hurricane caused severe flooding of the house of an academic acquaintance, and he chose not to travel abroad to give a presentation - instead he dealt with the flooding, insurance, etc. He asked me to give the talk for him, and we discussed it at length so I would be able to present effectively. The only problem was that I could not answer follow-up questions: instead I put up the author's email information as the last slide so people could follow up with him directly.

On a third occasion, travel restrictions (funding) required me to stand in for a colleague; while I was not an author on the paper, I was very familiar with the work (from my group) and was able to present and field questions from the audience. That is the ideal scenario.

On no account should you simply be a "no show": that will affect your acceptance at future conferences (even though it is "not your fault"). Everyone understands that stuff happens - but the show must go on. So find a sub - preferably someone you know and trust, with knowledge about your work. If necessary, just call all the other authors who are presenting in the same section - they are likely to understand the material best. And presumably you know some of them from other conferences?

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