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Context: MSc student, first time having a paper accepted to a conference.

I submitted an extended abstract to two conferences which were ultimately accepted. In the original extended abstract, I did not yet have results. The original extended abstract was also based on a particular methodology (optimization), but I ran into some computational complications solving my problem, so I had to change my methodology to 'simulation', and ultimately, my research question had to be adapted to the new methodology.

So now I am in a position where my original extended abstract was accepted on the premise of the original methodology and research question, but now when I present at the conference I will have to present on a new question based on a different methodology.

I feel like this 'bait-and-switch' is a bit of a slippery thing to do and my inexperience in publishing research and being involved with conferences probably influences that feeling, but my advisor said it isn't a big deal and now I find myself conflicted. From the perspective of my supervisor, they said that most conferences are understanding that research can change on the fly, which is why I should not be overly concerned that i'm presenting on something adjacent (but still very much related) to my original question and methodology. Additionally, the current title of my work is based on the original submission and uses a key-word in my field that signals to the readership that an 'optimization' methodology is going to be used (key word is "optimal").

I am wondering if I should reach out to the conference organizers and inform them of this change, particularly in regards to changing the title of the original paper. Or, perhaps this really isn't much of a big deal at all and this situation that I have described above is more common than I currently understand, in which case I can just leave it alone.

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  • On matters like this, listen to your advisor, plain and simple. It's their job to guide you in just these kinds of circumstances. If their advice consistently leads you astray, you've got to start asking yourself some bigger questions... – transitionsynthesis Jun 4 '20 at 20:21
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Depends strongly on the conference. It't not unusual (maybe 10% of papers) for presenters to present a paper on a substantially different topic than their accepted abstract at one of the most important conferences in my discipline. That's because it's considered a work in progress and discuss conference, so it's completely accepted that the question you thought about six months prior didn't actually work out.

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Personally, I don't have a problem with the change, but I'm not on the committee. If your original abstract didn't say that you actually had results with the old methodology, but that you were seeking results, then the change should raise no issues. But it would be good to give them a heads up.

On the other hand, if you overstated your case originally, then you have a bigger problem. Sometimes an "abstract" presents completed work, other times it is work in progress. If the latter was the tone of the original you should probably be fine.

Changing the title may be an issue or not, depending on their procedures and how long in advance they need to commit to things. And, of course, simulation is quite a bit different from optimization.

But, the best (abundance of caution) route is to let them know and send a new version. The attendees will want the latest result, not one you have abandoned, of course.

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