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Last year I submitted a paper to a IEEE conference that was going to be held in the US. I got funding from my university and registered to attend the conference. Unfortunately, my visa was rejected, which was unexpected for me because I had been in the US before for another conference.

Since conference presentation was mandatory for publication of my paper in the proceedings, I contacted the organizers to let them know about this issue and if there was something I could do like sending a video presentation. I didn't get any response and assumed that they were going to publish it anyways. However, a couple of months later I found that they didn't do so.

I tried to contact the organizers again to see if I could get a refund, but was ignored again. Is this common? Is there something I could do to get the money back?

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    The answers so far just tell you to do what you already did. If you're sure that's not working, you could file a payment dispute with your financial institution. However, your university probably does not consider a payment dispute for a small sum to be worthwhile. Dec 28 '20 at 0:23
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Is this common?

Not getting a visa to enter the country where a conference is held, is quite common. It is not common for someone to ask for their money back months after a conference though: while people do occasionally get delayed in asking for their money back, usually this is done immediately after finding out that you won't be able to attend the conference. Not months after the conference is over.

I've highlighted two words in what you wrote:

Since conference presentation was mandatory for publication of my paper in the proceedings, I contacted the organizers to let them know about this issue and if there was something I could do like sending a video presentation. I didn't get any response and assumed that they were going to publish it anyways.

If doing X is "mandatory" to get Y, I would recommend not to "assume" you will get Y without doing X. If this happens again in the future, I would perhaps send a polite reminder about my inquiry for presenting the work through video conference (not just one email and then "assume" that the paper will be published even though they never replied to your email), and perhaps make it clear that you would like your money back if there is no way to get the paper published. You might also consider getting a colleague or friend to present the work for you, if you know anyone else going to the conference who you trust with that type of thing (I have had people present my work for me at conferences before, and I've even seen invited speakers gets their post-docs to present their talk for them if they are too busy to attend).

Is there something I could do to get the money back?

You can ask again politely and include a summary of the timeline of events, perhaps with copies underneath of your old email inquiries which were ignored, but I do not recommend to have very high expectations here.

A friend of mine has this motto: "Low expectations, High hopes"

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Your only recourse is to contact the conference chairs. If you had a paper accepted to the proceedings (as opposed to an abstract/poster) then this sounds like a case where most reasonable conference chairs would either include your paper or refund you.

However, the conference does have terms for registration and inclusion in the proceedings, and it sounds like by not attending you may have violated them. Try to get your institution’s higher ups involved, but there may be little they can do to help.

Finally, though hindsight is always 2020 (pun intended), dealing with this matter immediately would have saved you a lot of trouble. Now the conference is over, the chairs have stepped down, and have much less incentive to deal with you.

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All you an do is ask. It may be possible or not. But the more important thing to resolve is your copyright on the paper. If you signed it over and they didn't publish it, I'd see a problem that should be resolved.

If IEEE sponsored the conference, you may want to discuss all issues with them.

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    "I'd see a problem that should be resolved." Every publishing agreement I have read clearly says that there is not a problem to be resolved: If the paper is not published, all rights are returned to the author. Dec 28 '20 at 0:21
  • I agree with Anonymous Physicist: the user does not need to be mislead to resolve a problem like that. Dec 28 '20 at 1:37
  • @user1271772, well, I've lived a long time and I've learned that when you make assumptions about things that could be easily checked you sometimes wind up getting burned. Checking may be as simple as reading anything you signed or sending a note to the conference chair. It seems foolish to take advice from strangers on the internet of the form "don't worry about it." Check and be sure.
    – Buffy
    Dec 28 '20 at 2:06
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    Maybe you haven't lived long enough to be able to judge what things are worth the time and what things are not :) Sure, in this case the user can just email the conference chair to check if they have permission to publish the paper elsewhere, but the chair doesn't seem to be replying to their emails anyway. I'd be much more concerned about getting the money back than about tilting at the copyright windmill. Dec 28 '20 at 2:10

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