Here is the scenario (hypothetical at the moment):

I have two papers on entirely unrelated topics, but are both presentable at the same conference. Paper 1 was funded through funding agency A, but paper 2 was not. The conference has multiple sessions covering a wide variety of topics. My funding to travel to the conference was provided by funding agency A in order to present paper 1.

Is it ethical to present paper 1 and paper 2 at this conference (given that I pay the abstract fee for paper 2 out of pocket), or am I confined to presenting results from the paper that I was funded to present?

Note: This isn't a dilemma I face now, but one a bit further down the line.

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    The title says the paper "isn't within" the original purpose. I might phrase it differently.... the question seems to be about a second paper "beyond" the original purpose. I find that "isn't within" makes it sound like the second paper is somehow contradictory to the funded purpose.
    – Dawn
    Commented Jan 15, 2019 at 19:16
  • 2
    I think it's worth considering the ramifications of any such hypothetical confinement rules. For instance, would they expect you not to leave your lodging place except to present at the conference? Would they expect you to concentrate on preparing your talk and not listen to any of the other talks? Hmm, no? Then why can't you give another talk? As long as you don't compromise on the quality of your funded talk due to the unfunded talk, what's the problem?
    – user21820
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 11:28
  • I see the problem is hypothetical for now. Most funding sources require some appreciation notice in publications. Would something prevent you from adding this note on both publications? Also, in real life Agency A can likely answer the question and should be consulted.
    – Mefitico
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 18:46
  • Of course there is nothing wrong with it and you should frequently work this system this way. Of COURSE take care of the initial obligation faithfully. But I encourage you to do a second paper/poster. Other ideas: do a job visit or networking visit. Stop by another school nearby. Tag on a second conference in the area (flight would be covered by first, but of course hotel/food not).
    – guest
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 17:15
  • Even personal "synergy" is fine. Go see something interesting in town, fly your wife out. Have dinner with an old friend, etc. Of course don't neglect your primary purpose. But some small personal add on is very reasonable and makes the travel less arduous.
    – guest
    Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 17:17

3 Answers 3


I can't see any ethical issues at all. You seem to be properly fulfilling the obligations of your funding. What else you do at a conference is your own concern. The funders are willing to support you and you are doing what is required for the funding. Rest easy.

I can't imagine that any funding agency would suggest (or even think) that you can't do other things at a conference. They certainly expect you to take advantage of the opportunities it affords.

  • 25
    Agree with this answer. One thing that I'd add: it is important that one doesn't double bill anything. So even if the second paper is associated with some other organization, one cannot get reimbursed for travel expenses or conference fees more than once. That would make it actually unethical (and potentially illegal).
    – JoshuaZ
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 3:22
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    Should the funding agency be acknowledged in paper the one they didn't fund (paper 2)?
    – user2768
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 7:28
  • It can also happen that a funded presenter also presents a paper on behalf of a colleague. That scenario is not really so different.
    – Mick
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 8:33
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    Most funding agencies, when paying for your attendance at a conference to present a paper they supported, would not bat an eyelid if you were to inform them that you were presenting another paper as well. They would only get in an uproar - understandably enough - if they paid for your attendance and you didn't show up to present the paper they sponsored.
    – Peter
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 9:58

Asking "is X ethical" is a philosophical question, since it depends on the notions of morality and justice you approach the question with. It's impossible to truly answer the question without starting with axioms to that effect. What is considered ethical to one person may be considered wholly unethical to another. Academia in general has no prescribed code of ethics- there may be expectations or general consensus about what is right or wrong, but reasonable people can still disagree with the consensus for any number of reasons.

I think a better way to phrase the question would be, "In a professional academic setting, am I likely to get into trouble for X, or would I be looked down by my peers for X (regardless of whether I get into trouble)?"

In answer to the rephrased question, my professional opinion would be that your actions are perfectly reasonable, rational, and justifiable, and I believe most people would feel the same way. Unless, of course, your funding agreements specifically stated that your desired course of action is forbidden in this case, which might itself be reasonably interpreted as an unethical stipulation.

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    LOVE this answer. Too many references to 'ethics' here and on the Workplace stacks that would be much better served by an appeal to basic consensus. Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 8:50
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    @Faulty_ram_sticks 1. Polish the contacts on the memory card with a pencil eraser. 2. A Melamine "magic sponge" can work magic, but, don't overdo the elbow grease as the plating is nowadays rather thin and the melamine sponges have "real bite". 3. :-) . Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 12:52
  • @RussellMcMahon In case username checks out, ha ha Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 16:01
  • I agree. As a general extension, I believe (and have asked my university) that it's always fine to do an "extra thing", if it you would have spent the same amount of money not doing the "extra thing". Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 8:42

Questions of ethics generally revolve around conflicts of interest, where your personal interests pull you in a direction that is in opposition to your professional or moral obligations.

In this case, your professional obligation is to present paper #1 at this conference, and your personal interest is to present paper #2 at the conference. Assuming you have the time available to present both, and furthermore that the second doesn't undermine your employer's interests in some way--which I'll take as a given, since you said the two are entirely unrelated--there doesn't appear to be any conflict here, and so no ethical problems.

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