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A few weeks ago I submitted a two-page abstract to a conference in environmental sciences/ecology/biology. I haven't received the decision yet – poster or presentation. A few days ago I found out there will be a different conference, where my contribution would fit better and the main speakers are directly from my field and I could finally meet them.

Due to funding I probably cannot attend both conferences, so I have to choose. Another approach would be to withdraw my current submission and send a different one to the second conference.

Is it unethical to withdraw my submission and send it to other conference?

  • Are you in computer science? Equivalently: How long was your abstract, and how stringent is the review? – JeffE Mar 12 at 8:17
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    @JeffE I am in environmental sciences/ecology/biology. The abstract is two pages, and I thing the review mainly decides if the contribution goes for a talk or poster. – user3624251 Mar 12 at 8:19
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It is not unethical, but people will not be pleased.

  • usually conferences would like to have good presentations, and if yours is accepted, they would like to have it.
  • if it is currently under review, the reviewers put (sometimes significant) work in it. This work is wasted now.

Nonetheless, it happens that authors of accepted publications do not attend to a conference - which is much worse. So retracting it as early as possible wopuld be a good option.

If the work is under review, it might happen that the reviewers of the other conference overlap with your current reviewers. If I would be such a reviewer, I would immediately reject the second submission because I would assume the work was already published or it would be a duplicate submission (which in both cases would be unethical).

You can avoid this situation by submitting something different to the second conference (or you can check the program committee for potential overlap - but it is not always visible who is serving as reviewers).

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    If the work is under review — Given OP's field, I don't think this should be a concern. Within computer science, yes, withdrawing late risks wasting significant work by several people, but outside CS, conference reviewing is light to non-existent. – JeffE Mar 12 at 8:25
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    I would assume the work was already published — Huh. You wouldn't check? My default assumption is would be that the first submission was rejected. – JeffE Mar 12 at 8:26
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    The asker later said that their paper is literally a two-page abstract, so the review effort won't be so significant in this case. (I edited that into the question just now..) – David Richerby Mar 12 at 10:50
  • @JeffE it is a matter of deadlines - e.g. if I know (or assume) it was accepted in a conference, I would not ask if it was withdrawn. Sometimes it is impossible to check. – OBu Mar 12 at 11:34

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