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I need to choose one of two recent experiments to submit to a psychology conference taking place 10 months from now. Both studies are equally relevant to the conference topic, but they differ in terms of their maturity stage:

  1. I have only recently started to analyse the data of. In the Abstract I would submit I would just mention my hypotheses and methods, and speculate about results. Thus, this study feels a bit 'unripe' to base a conference submission on, and indeed might rightfully get rejected as being too high-risk (unclear if a "null result" would still make for an interesting research report).

  2. I've been working on its manuscript for a while, which has very recently been accepted as a peer-reviewed journal article. This study, on the contrary, feels to me a bit too 'ripe' to present at a conference since, as a soon-public article, it's no longer newsworthy on any extra 'channels'.

The two choices I am faced with lead me to a question that I've long been pondering: what is the optimal stage at which an (empirical) study is best presented at a (scientific) conference, i.e. how early or late into its lifetime? Else put: should one err on the side of too ripe, or too unripe

My guess is, somewhere in between having (almost) final results for analyses (but no write-up yet) at one end, and having the manuscript under-review but not yet accepted, at the other end. My current choices are just a bit outside of this ideal interval, on either side!

We've all seen people at conferences pushing both ends, i.e. either putting themselves out on a limb and winging work that is obviously still in progress; vs taking "on an academic tour" work that isn't by any means recent anymore and in some cases even recognisable from previous conferences/papers. But my question has to do with the optimal stage at which to present stuff, from the point of view of both the presenter and the audience.

I see this as a trade-off between how well the presentation would come across ((1) risky: conference public being the first to see a "first draft", vs (2) safe: presenting already-reviewed data that's likely to be well received) and how useful said presentation actually is in terms of getting feedback ((1) very much so, since there will still be time to implement feedback; vs (2) not at all since the work is done and published, if even just very recently so).

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    If you have an advisor, ask for their opinion. Sometimes the best approach is to write a vague abstract and adapt the focus of the talk closer to the conference. – Anyon Nov 29 '18 at 14:57
  • Are you interested in psychology in particular, or all fields? – Tommi Brander Dec 4 '18 at 15:27
  • I would say all fields where typical presentations consist of empirical work. As project life-cycles are different across the various experimental sciences, the ideal answer would be particular to experimental psychology; but certainly more general perspectives would also be helpful. – z8081 Dec 4 '18 at 20:49
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For me, the best stage of presenting work at a conference is when you feel submission is imminent, and then you stop presenting it once it's been published. The rationale here is that you are using conferences to basically sell your work, and that timeframe is when you have the most to sell and when you actually also need to sell it, either to get it published or to start new collaborations.

  • Thanks! When you say "submission is immiment" I assume you refer to journal submission, right? Also, the paradox I was describing still applies, as between the conference submission and the conference presentation typically 6-12 months will have lapsed, thus you are efectively presenting published work, which goes against your principles as stated :) – z8081 Dec 4 '18 at 13:34
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    Yes, that would be journal submission. And I'd try to aim it such that at the moment of the conference, you are close to journal submission. It makes conference applications a lot more difficult, of course, since you effectively have to predict when your projects will be ready. – Designerpot Dec 4 '18 at 13:40

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