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So I did research over the summer and applied to and got funded to go to a conference in Hawaii. I would have to leave to the conference early Wednesday morning and wouldn't return until about 1am Monday morning. The main problem I have is that since I'll be expected to be at the conference for most of the day and be pressured into having fun by my peers during the night, I don't think that going to this conference would help my goal of getting an A on the test's I have to take on Monday/Tuesday. I told my professor that this conference would be a burden on me and my studies so I wouldn't be able to go. She replied and said "I was making a huge mistake and that I would have to face financial and other consequences for my decision." Is she trying to scare me or can the university punish me financially for wasting funding money that I earned In order to attend to my studies. It's not like I'm blowing this conference off because "I'm not feeling it" Going to this conference would really set me back in all of my classes. Any advice, this is really stressing me out.

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    I'm not sure if your worries are justified. You get to decide which sessions and social activities you attend; nobody will care if you're missing most of them. In fact, I know more than one researcher who claims to be more productive during conferences, as they're freed from the interruptions of their usual environment. – lighthouse keeper Oct 30 '19 at 8:37
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    You say "all of my classes", but even though I know some PhD programmes have classes in the early years, it is not clear from your question if you are in currently at the Masters or PhD level. Also, was it a conference with a peer reviewed submission, or not? And finally, in every case, not spending funding money which was granted for any reason (and surely for something as "after some more consideration, I've changed my mind" makes it much less likely for the same funding source to ever consider funding that same person and even lab again. – penelope Oct 30 '19 at 11:14
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    If your goal is to have an academic research career, the professional connections you can make at conference will have a greater and a longer lasting value than an A on any single test – penelope Oct 30 '19 at 11:16
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I suggest that you go and make the best use of the time, both at the conference and otherwise. You have a long plane ride in both directions. You have evenings if you forgo socializing. You have time between sessions to review course material if you have some notes on index cards or otherwise that are easy to carry.

You might even be successful in begging to put off the exam(s) for a day or so.

And, as others have said, if you have had a paper accepted then you have an obligation to present it. Making your advisor happy is worth something also.

And remember that in the last analysis, for moving on to grad school, more than your grades will be considered. Most especially letters from your advisor.

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  • Actually, I hope you did go, since you asked for advice so late. – Buffy Oct 30 '19 at 18:43
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First, you have to check the conference website. Most (if not all) conferences state clearly that submitting a paper REQUIRES at least one of the authors to attend to present the paper, and that if you do not, your paper is out (will not be included in the proceeding), so you have to look for another place.

Everyone is busy, but we must plan and respect others. The attendees' time is also valuable as yours. When they come and found many people behave like you, wouldn't this be a waste for their time and money?

Remember that you are building your own reputation. So by breaking your word you give the organizers and attendees (who are your fellows) a bad impression.

To me, frankly, how can I take you seriously as a researcher if I can not trust your promises? If you break your promises in attending the conference you can also break many rules in your research.

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  • It wasn't clear, actually, whether the OP had a paper accepted. – Buffy Oct 30 '19 at 18:37
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    @Buffy OP got the request for funding accepted, that makes a strong enough point. That money may now not be available to some other student, depending on financial deadlines of the department. The reaction of the prof seems to indicate that dropping the ball on this might create problems for her. – Captain Emacs Oct 30 '19 at 23:48
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In addition to the answer by None, who correctly identifies that the paper will most likely not be included in the conference proceeding if none of the authors attend, there can be additional repercussions.

As far as I know, all the peer-reviewed conferences (in Computer Science) require at least one author to attend the conference and present the work in order to publish it. The session chairs will take note of any no-shows. The people that have not shown up can get blacklisted from all the conferences by the same publisher.1

Sending a replacement presenter is usually acceptable. If an author registered to attend but was unable due to last-minute developments (travel documents, illness, etc) they are required to prove that they have made a good-faith attempt to attend - or at last communicate this to the organisers who then may ask for proof (i.e. booked flight tickets, or a document showing you applied for a visa, or similar). I don't know what the official policy is if the author decides to retract the paper and not attend due to personal reasons (e.g. exam, friends birthday party), but in case of professional reasons I would still recommend notifying the organisers with the hopes of avoid or soften future negative consequences (e.g. it was not possible to obtain travel funding in the end).

While I do not through which mechanics this is enforced exactly, similar repercussions exist for not spending the granted funding money (or trying to re-purpose it in case of purpose-specific grants). I have often heard it said that not spending the grant money would diminish the chances, or even prevent the person from applying for funding with the same source again (occasionally resulting in a big project dinner to spend the "leftovers" around the end of the project).

1 This is true at least for IEEE conferences (IEEE being one of the larges Computer Science publishers), as I had it confirmed by a session chair at a large international conference.

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