It would be quite interesting to have others' experience and opinion on what guidelines are followed, and/or would make sense to follow regarding conference expenses for a researcher having recently transitioned laboratories.

It is very common for PhD researchers to do a post-doc in a different lab, and for post-docs to move from one lab to another. In that case, which lab should cover the conference expenses to present the work done (and fully completed) at the previous lab which the researcher just left? Should it be the one where the work was done? If that lab refuses, should the new one cover the expenses or should the researcher give up the opportunity to present his work? Or maybe the new lab should cover the expenses anyways as the researcher is now affiliated there?

  • 3
    Who should, who can, and who does are often different things. As indicated by a comment of mine below, I prefer the last option for my people, and that principle was applied during my various movements.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


My perspective comes as a research group manager at a US national lab.

I pay for conference attendance for my people - it is part of their job, and their ability to grow as a researcher depends on attending conferences. Whether they are post-docs or new staff, I hired them in no small part because they were performing work that was at least tangentially relevant to their first assignments. So, I will get them to the conference to maintain and grow their reputation and skills. The cost of registration and travel is really small compared with a loaded salary. And I at least get my institution listed as their current address at the talk.

For post-docs in particular, I tell them that 'the job of a post-doc is to get a job.' The way they will get a (permanent) job is by doing good work, publishing, and presenting at conferences. They need to be visible, have chances to network, and come back with good ideas. So what if the first conference they go to is based on older work? They need to be out there to keep developing, and it is my job to make sure they develop.

Finally, I do this at least partly because that is how I was treated as a post-doc and new staff. That first conference at each institution was based on my 'old' work, but it was at conferences and in areas that were important to my 'new' job. And, my bosses agreed. The least I can do is arrange that for others.

I understand that there may be budget issues in other situations. However, the PIs really should consider if they are being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Good things happen at conferences, for both the post-docs and the PIs.

  • +1 for the wisdom of the policy, not just the answer.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 23, 2018 at 20:07

It's pretty hard for me to imagine the new lab paying. The funding for a lab is, one hopes, related to the work of that lab. It is also rather a lot less than infinite. The old lab may desire to pay for it to get their own work presented, but may not if the researcher is no longer affiliated.

In general, I think this situation may not be covered by established rules and you should approach the lab director for funds. Starting at the old lab if you haven't already been approved. The new lab's director may, contrary to good sense and if funds are closer to infinity, agree to fund the travel if the researcher is valued enough. But the old lab's director might refuse to pay on symmetric grounds since the researcher is no longer contributing to the work. Begging may be indicated.

It may also be that the funding grant for the lab includes travel for presentation. I think this is pretty common. However, the lab director may have discretion over who presents the results. They may be considered as the "property" of the lab, not of individuals. But that probably varies widely.

On the other hand, if funding comes from some common containing organization, the question may be moot.

  • Thanks a lot for you input @Buffy, I added a couple of words in the post to clarify that the case considered is when the work has been fully completed in the previous lab (and no one is taking over, or at least not yet). Begging is often indeed too common a requirement for non-PI to attend conferences (although highly lab-specific).
    – michael
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 11:59
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    With new post-docs and staff, I always pay for conference attendance on the previous work. Attending the conference is probably a good thing (they were hired based on some of that work!) for them, and that makes it a good thing for my group. Compared with salary, conference and travel fees are peanuts. (Context: US national lab).
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 13:00
  • @JonCuster, good for you. I think a wise choice. Sign me up.
    – Buffy
    Commented Jul 19, 2018 at 13:04
  • @JonCuster this is a very interesting feedback. As shown from Buffy's comment, the opposite opinion also exists, and it is possible there is no agreement to my question. Intuitively I would have thought the lab where the work was done would be the primary responsible institution for conference expenses relating to that work.
    – michael
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 11:22
  • @michael - each PI's budget is different with different pressures. To me, a conference trip is a rounding error in the total cost of a post-doc (i.e. <1%). At universities that is not necessarily true.
    – Jon Custer
    Commented Jul 20, 2018 at 13:04

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