So a little bit of background first. I work in research and while i am fairly new to the profession ( going to be 10 months soon ), i am nearing the completion of a Conference paper.

This is my first serious attempt at an academic write-up and i have good reason to believe that the paper has a fair chance of being accepted at an international conference.

However, the lab that i work for, has some specific problems. For one, we are urged to author journal papers more than conference papers. secondly there is a huge issue with funding, the higher-ups are quite frugal when it comes to money matters and are reluctant to give additional funding ( aside from our salaries ) for any cause, no matter how genuine or valid it may be. And its not that they have a lack of funding ( the financial figures are public and common knowledge & they are quite substantial ), its just that the top brass mostly uses these funds to finance only their own trips abroad. They have never sent any researcher to any conference or symposium to a foreign country on the Lab's funds, as of yet.

This has recently come to concern me directly. When i sent an initial draft of my conference paper to the Lab's Principal Investigator, they asked me if it was possible to convert this into a Journal Paper. In response, i readily agreed to work further upon the paper & expand the work into a journal publication, while the paper is submitted to a conference. I also mentioned that this paper has a good chance in an international conference.

However, they seemed very reluctant in their reply. They simply said that as all conferences are being cancelled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, it would be very difficult to submit the paper. While this reasoning is sound, it was the other part of their reply which got me thinking. They specifically said that, " expensive registration fees & travel costs related to a conference " would be an obstacle. They urged me to instead work on transforming THIS paper into a journal paper, ruling out any conference publication outright.

Now, i am just starting out in research but i do know that both, conference & journal publication are considered academic writings. Also, i intend to pursue my postgraduate studies abroad & for that i need some published work to compliment my profile. I have already had 5 scholarship applications rejected ( probably due to my low CGPA; 2.854 ) & i realize that without research work, i would probably be up against it when searching for international scholarships.

Make no mistake, my work is my first priority over any personal ambitions that i might have. My sole reason for asking this question here is to find help on how to properly approach this issue of being refused the funding & the right to at least submit my paper in a conference ?

Would i be better off submitting it myself ? Although please know that i cannot fund any trips or registration expenses to a conference abroad. is there any other way i can get the paper under consideration for a prospective conference publication ?

I have been very perturbed over this & would be grateful for any help i can get from the academia community regarding this issue. I am just starting out, so feel free to give me any advice you think might be helpful in resolving this problem.

Thank you

EDIT : I was advised by an esteemed member to include more details about my contextual information. I work at a government-funded lab, but it is located in a University and has the name of the university attached to its title. Apart from teaching, which we researchers don't do, everything else is closely entwined with academics. Also, every PI & Co-PI is an academic(PhD). My field is CS.I have no intention of defying a PI, i was merely looking for the best approach in this case. i have already completed my Undergrad studies, more than 2 years ago. I might sound desperate about this paper, but that's merely because even after 2.5 years of graduation, i am yet to have any published work under my name. Also, i am not currently enrolled in a Masters/PhD program as of yet, so the PI has no bearing over my postgrad studies. I am just a full-time employee at the Lab. If you think any more information is needed, PLEASE let me know. I am open to providing more context on this, but as i am a bit new to this, i don't exactly know what extra information to provide that would be helpful for you to answer this question. Thanks for your kind co-operation

  • 1
    Are you a PhD or an MSc student? I never fund MSc students to attend conferences and for PhD students I only fund if they get accepted in specific high-tier conferences (that usually have an acceptance rate close to some journals). In our area, conference papers are not considered important in hiring. If the standard of the lab is not to send to conferences, then didn’t you know this before joining?
    – electrique
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:24
  • I'm not a student per se. I have a full-time research job at this lab. I am not currently enrolled in any degree program. I intend to apply for MS (or MS leading to PhD) abroad, which is why i want to publish sooner. The lab i work for is government-funded, but it is located in a University and has the name of the university attached to its title. Apart from teaching, which we researchers don't do, everything else is closely entwined with academics. every PI & Co-PI is an academic. I have done my bachelors from the same university but i would prefer a foreign MS/PhD. thankful for any guidance
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:30
  • @electrique with all due respect, we were promised ALOT of things by the lab, but were given almost none of those. So this Conference publication argument is nothing new but i expected this to be taken a bit more seriously by the higher ups, considering it was a direct contribution the the Lab's research mission. I am just flabbergasted at their response of not allowing this. I am not asking to go myself, for all i care, the PI can go & present it (which is what they would probably do), i just want published work so i can enhance my profile, while being eligible for international scholarships
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:36
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    If you want to get a position abroad as a PhD, I find that a strong reference from the head of the lab is much more valuable than a conference paper on your own. My advice would be to work for a journal. If your PI thinks it’s good enough work to go into a journal, then you would have a journal publication and good references.
    – electrique
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 21:08
  • @electrique thank you so much ! that makes so much more sense than one of the answers here ! ( If you don't mind, would you compose this as well as any other advice you might have for a budding researcher like me, in a complete & proper answer to this question ? ) Thanks. EDIT : i forgot to tell, that the PI already approved a conference paper of ANOTHER researcher, for a local conference ( it got postponed due to COVID-19 ) nevertheless, the PI being against this conference paper, this is why its been confusing for me in the first place. Why approve another conference paper but not mine ?
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 13:08

3 Answers 3


Conferences are a nice thing - you get the opportunity to meet people, network etc. However, they are a quite expensive thing to do and, for now, you would pay for a conference and not even get anything in return, as all travel is effectively grounded.

Your PI is more than right that, instead of trying for a conference, you should go straight to the journal. You are new to the research business, and you should trust your PI to know how to arrange things. There is nothing abusive or unfair about the decisions made by your PI; maybe they overpromised, but the way you present it as "your right" to submit to the conference creates the appearance that you do not really respect their opinion.

Part of professionalism is to respect that others may know more than you. If you absolutely want this conference and your lab leader doesn't believe in it, you should find ways to fund it yourself. After all, as @WolfgangBangerth says, it's their money.

A constructive PI offers you something for your investment which is a journal paper - that's perfectly fair and appropriate in this case, and especially in view of the whole circumstances. If you want things to run your way (i.e. submit to a conference) against the express wish of the PI, you assume the full risk for your decision.

Finally, your sentence "i expected this to be taken a bit more seriously by the higher ups, considering it was a direct contribution the the Lab's research mission. I am just flabbergasted at their response of not allowing this" smacks of an perception that you know better than your superiors. Maybe you do. But you first have to prove it, and you are not there yet. With a low GPA, as you mention, you even have a longer way uphill.

TL;DR: your PI seems to know their business and balance the priorities of the lab. Listen to them and learn, even if you cannot get your will.

  • ok. wasn't expecting someone to take a jab at me for my Low CGPA. That hurt. I confessed that in good conscience and confidence to the academic community here. oh well, all's fair in academia as well, i guess. Its not that i know better than them, it is just that .. well, i wish if you met them once, you'd know perfectly well what i am talking about, I might have been a bit brash at my wording, but it is not without reason. Its a shame i can't really reveal everything, as that would make more sense to you. I just came to ask for help on handling this. i am not disrespectful to anyone, ever.
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 13:03
  • Oh and btw, as i wrote to eletcrique, the PI approved a conference paper about 40 days ago ( at the time of writing ), from another researcher. Since i peer reviewed that conference paper & the researcher themselves told me, that they had hurried the results in that paper and butchered the write-up, i know it was an okay paper. The PI approved it for sending to a local conference. I wrote my paper with much more hardwork & poise. Do you see, why is it so confusing for me now? I'm not in a open, western society where personalities can be taken for face-value. what would you suggest now ?
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 13:14
  • Also read what i wrote in response to Buffy. It might help shed more light on the circumstance
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 13:15
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    @SMYaxir I didn't jab at you. I just took the information you give and went with it to predict the situation. I am sure you will have your reasons for having it, but the point is that this forms a handicap at this stage, which will only disappear with time. If you do not like us to analyse your situation or you do not like my answer, let me know, and I will delete it. Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 13:28
  • not at all. i guess some scrutiny is due for a newbie like me. I'll learn with time, i guess. lets just say i was in a really bad place during the first half of my Undergrad ( we have 4 years of Bachelor in my country ) and it weren't academic reasons, more like very difficult yet personal challenges that i had to juggle with academics, hence the low CGPA. Please do read the further responses i wrote to buffy. I am also going to edit my original question, to include more context for other readers to analyse upon. thanks for taking the time.
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 13:36

I see the reasoning of your superiors as neither surprising nor, in fact, wrong. Money is limited everywhere, and there is a decision to be made as to what to spend it on. For sure, just because one of the researchers in a lab wants to go to a conference, I see no moral obligation to spend money on that -- in particular, if it is abroad where travel and registration costs can easily run to more than one monthly salary for most graduate students. So, when running a lab, one has to balance the cost of such a trip against the potential benefit to the lab and the person, and the analysis is often that it doesn't make sense to support someone going to a conference. I think that's particularly pertinent today where it's not even clear whether the conference will actually run.

I do recognize that you probably don't like this answer, but you are, after all, asking for someone else's money.

  • I am not asking them to submit it right now on the most urgent basis. The view is that when things eventually calm down (and hopefully they will) THEN submit it to a good conference. I have not asked to go the conference. for all i care, the PI could go instead. I just want published work on my profile. its alright i can understand the reasoning behind your answer. i cannot divulge everything that is at play at my workplace, but i was expecting this behavior from them. Its just that i thought there would be some solution, some middle ground i could use Thank you for taking the time
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 21, 2020 at 12:53

Whether the advice you are getting is good or bad, you almost certainly have to follow it. They control the funds. But even if it weren't just a funding issue you are normally ill advised to ignore the direction of a PI who has some control, or at least influence, over your future. It is a poor career move to have a powerful advisor think that you aren't a team player.

That has noting to do with the right or wrong of it, of course.

However, if the PI holds no power over your future and is not, for example, your academic advisor, then you can be more independent and proactive. This is a mistake if the person is vindictive and has a long reach, but otherwise should be fine.

You can't, of course, expect any financial support for publishing or travel, but if you have your own personal funds you could in such a case, make your own decisions about submission and travel to the conference.

But some of the PIs advice is good. Travel is being restricted. Conferences are being cancelled. But all of that can change. Working toward a journal publication might be appropriate, depending on your sub-field.

But, I advise that you look to the long term. Don't make short term decisions that negatively impact on your long term goals.

  • Well ... my field is CS. A few people i know have already published conference papers, as soon as they got out of undergraduate studies. I have no intention of defying a PI, i was merely looking for the best approach. Please note that i have already completed my Undergrad studies, more than 2 years ago. Its just recently that i have delved into the domain of research & i like it very much. I already have access to 3 or 4 very good academic referees ( none of which are related to the PI ), so the reference letters have made no difference to my masters' scholarship application Please advise
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 18:59
  • Are you working in industry or a non-academic lab? Or are you in a degree program. I assumed the latter. If you intend to enter academia but are in industry make that more clear.
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:02
  • sorry for not being clear. Yes i do intend to enter into academia, but i am currently not working in industry. As for me, well i left my industry job back in mid 2018. Got this job in mid 2019 or so. I am not currently enrolled in any degree program. I intend to apply for MS ( or MS leading to PhD ) abroad, which is why i want to publish sooner. what would be meant by a non-academic lab ? please explain.
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:07
  • Something like a government lab or IBM. Anything not associated with a university. Your use of PI made me think entirely that you were a grad student. I should probably do a major rewrite of my advice as it is based on incorrect assumptions. The short form, I think, is that your PI has much less control over you in your current situation.
    – Buffy
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:11
  • It is a government-funded lab, but it is located in a University and has the name of the university attached to its title ( Like : Lab Name + University Name ). you can say its a collaboration of sorts. We also seek & work with industrial partners, but academia is a major portion of the lab. apart from teaching, which we researchers don't do, everything else is closely entwined with academics. Also, every PI & Co-PI is an academic ( PhDs, with the designation of Assistant or Associate Professors ). I hope this explains it ?
    – Yasir
    Commented Mar 20, 2020 at 19:16

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