Many times I heard about papers published in conference. But still I am not able to find the major difference between papers published in a conference and those published in a journal. What is the difference?

  • 13
    You should specify the field you are interested in. In computer science, for example, it is very common to publish in conference proceedings due to the faster publishing cycle. However, this is not necessarily true for other fields where conferences might be just gatherings of the community to talk about ongoing research. Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 10:36
  • 1
    I am from mathematics background.
    – monalisa
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 10:38
  • Most of the conferences employ only one (or two) cycles of review/revise due to the deadlines. At a journal, in theory, you can have many cycles of sending your (revised) paper to the reviewers and then update it according to their comments.
    – visoft
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 13:26
  • @MichaelMauderer do you mean faster publishing compared to journal articles in general or in CS? Because in Chemistry a typical time between submission and first online is just a few months or even less.
    – user64845
    Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 0:22
  • @DSVA Note: that comment is from '14 and things change. The comment was mostly meant to highlight differences between publication practices in different disciplines. Commented Jan 2, 2018 at 17:41

3 Answers 3


Conference papers refer to articles that are written with the goal of being accepted to a conference: typically an annual (or biannual) venue with a specific scope where you can present your results to the community, usually as an oral presentation, a poster presentation, or a tabled discussion. The review process for conference papers is typically within a fixed window: everyone submits for a certain deadline, then the review committee (program committee) collaborates to review and discuss papers, then all authors are notified with accept/reject at the same time. Since the review process has a fixed schedule (to meet the schedule of the physical meeting), conference review times are quite predictable.

Conference papers are typically published in collections called "proceedings": sometimes these are printed by university presses, by professional organizations, by big-name publishers, or simply online.

Journal papers refer to an article that's published in an issue of the journal. The frequency of issues for different journals varies from one-a-month to once-a-year, or anything in between; it may not even be regular. The review process for journals often does not have a fixed deadline or schedule: though journals may promise things like "reviews in six weeks", in my experience, this rarely if ever holds true. However, instead of conferences that typically have only accept/reject decisions, journals typically have a rolling review schedule and reviewers can opt to ask the authors for revisions, meaning that there might be multiple review phases (often limited to three, at which stage the paper is rejected/accepted).

Since conference papers have a fixed schedule and provide the authors a venue for discussion and feedback, they are generally for earlier-term work or for "announcing/marking an idea", or for finding collaborators. Furthermore, conference papers tend to have fixed page-limits, which restricts the content to preliminary findings.

Journal papers tend to have generous page-limits (or none at all), but typically require the work to be more comprehensive and self-contained in return.

In general, in most fields, papers in well-recognized journals tend to have more prestige than papers in well-recognized conferences (esp. in terms of metrics). But this is a simplification.

While in some fields, conference papers are akin to talk abstracts, in areas like computer science, conference papers can be very meaty and there is a high churn of papers in conferences. Top conferences can have acceptance rates around 10%, and as such, A+ conference papers are often held in high regard within the community: these venues are far more competitive than many of the best journals. Still, even in the CS area, metric-wise (for hiring, positions, funding, etc.), journals will often still count for more than a conference following the norm in other academic fields.

  • 10
    "in most fields, papers in well-recognized journals tend to have more prestige" - with the exception of CS. And the last line of the answer is just not true at all.
    – Suresh
    Commented Mar 20, 2014 at 16:16
  • 2
    "In most fields" is followed by a full paragraph on the exceptional nature of CS. As for the last line, I use the qualifier "often": this has been the case in many of the institutes I have applied to or been at, has been the case for my PhD, etc. In my experience, although CS departments internally will give due weight to good conference papers, they are still bound by the same standards as the rest of the university departments in terms of hiring/firing/promotions/funds. What are your counter-arguments as to why journals will not often count for more than a conference in CS?
    – badroit
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 1:21
  • 4
    It's based on my experiences (at different levels) evaluating work and people, and watching how others do it, and how people talk about research work. It's not an absolute statement, but CS departments have spent many years in battles with deans convincing them that conferences count for more than journals.
    – Suresh
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 5:27
  • 1
    even in the CS area, metric-wise (for hiring, positions, funding, etc.), journals will often still count for more than a conference — Speaking as the chair of the faculty recruiting committee in a top-5 CS department: This is simply incorrect. I don't recall anyone on my committee ever pointing out a CS journal paper in any junior candidate's CV. (For interdisciplinary folks, it's important for research to be published in journals in the other area: Biology research in biology journals, for example.)
    – JeffE
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 17:13
  • 2
    @JeffE, I think that being in a top-5 CS department in the US means that the department will have it's own policies, etc. ... I think it would be less representative of other departments. As for "this is simply incorrect": you cannot refute my statement with one counter-example. I said that it is often the case, not that it is always the case. Maybe have a look at: academia.stackexchange.com/a/18434/7746.
    – badroit
    Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 21:34

It may be useful to expand on something which is implicit in Pete's answer. In pure mathematics, "conference papers" as described by badroit don't actually exist. Some (but by no means all, or even most) math conferences have published "proceedings", but these are not collections of the talks (or posters, or whatever) given at the conference. Likewise, in math there is no review process prior to the conference to decide which presentations will be given.

Instead, it is decided to have a conference, a bunch of people are invited, and some subset of them are asked to give talks. (How all of that happens varies a lot from case to case, but that's an answer for another question.) The point is that the speakers are chosen before anyone knows what they intend to talk about. The talks themselves may be about work in progress, work that's already submitted or published, or a synthesis. Basically, speakers give the same sort of talk they'd give in a departmental seminar which happened to have an audience full of experts. In particular, a talk frequently doesn't correspond to a single paper, or to work which is still available to be submitted for publication. Thus the phrase "present a paper", which people from many other fields use to describe what they do at a conference, sounds rather odd to mathematicians. (At least, it does to me.)

Finally, when there is a proceedings volume, all of the speakers — and possibly also the other participants who didn't give talks — are invited to submit papers. Those papers don't necessarily have anything to do with the actual talks (although hopefully both have to do with the topic of the conference). So the "proceedings" don't necessarily bear any resemblance to what actually happened at the conference, making "proceedings" rather a misnomer. Basically, a proceedings volume is like a one-issue journal (sometimes it is an issue of a regular journal) on the topic of the conference. Pete already explained some of the ways they are perceived differently from regular journals.

  • Thanks for this answer. I realized when I wrote my answer that I was underplaying the fact that you are not selected to speak at a conference based on the paper you submit (because you don't submit the paper in advance). One reason I didn't say this is because I wasn't sure whether you do submit papers in advance in other fields! Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 18:47
  • One comment: "Those papers don't necessarily have anything to do with the actual talks...." surprises me a little. "Necessarily" is a strong word, but in my experience the papers in the proceedings more often than not do somehow correspond to the talk that was given (or would have been given if the invitee had attended!), though since they are of the usual size for a paper there is much more there than is in any one talk. In the proceedings I've read such papers often begin by saying a little bit about what was actually said in the talk. Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 18:47
  • Admittedly the practice that I am describing above applies more to lecture series than individual talks, but in my experience these are the types of conference proceedings that I encounter more often. (If you are giving one lecture on your recent work, then most of the time that work just appears in an unrelated, conventional journal.) Commented Mar 22, 2014 at 18:50
  • @Pete: What I've described is probably the extreme case, but it is an accurate description of some conference proceedings which I have seen, published in, and refereed for. Commented Mar 23, 2014 at 7:37

For many questions like this, you can get some kind of answer without including information on your own discipline, but it will be at best some kind of weighted average across different disciplines. If you indicate your discipline in the question then you may well get both general questions and questions focused to your discipline.

You ask about mathematics. We do not have a very strong tradition of conference papers at all compared to most other academic fields. The idea of a "prestigious conference paper" is almost an oxymoron to me. There are a small number of yearly conferences which regularly publish their proceedings, but that the papers are solid and interesting and sufficiently thematically connected to one another that you might actually want to own the book they get published in is close to a best case scenario. Actually I get annoyed even by this because conference proceedings that get published as books tend to be books which are very expensive, difficult to locate (by virtue of bibliographic information handled in a strange way) and often not carried by university libraries.

At the moment I have 22 published papers and half a dozen other submissions, and I have never submitted a paper to a conference. Curious as to whether this was my own idiosyncrasy, I just looked up the published papers of my two senior colleagues in my field (number theory). One of them has no conference papers. The other has three but the most recent is from 1989. I do get the sense that this was a more common phenomenon about a generation ago.

Why don't mathematicians like to publish conference papers? Here are some ideas:

1) I don't get the sense that many people are getting their submissions to conference proceedings turned away: rather, I think most often they simply ask everyone who spoke in the conference [or in the section, or whatever] whether they would like to contribute an article. They usually are "refereed" in some formal sense, but in my understanding it is usually nominal, and the proceedings are viewed mostly as a record of as many of the actual talks as they could persuade people to write up.

2) Because they generally do want a paper from as many people who gave a talk at the conference as possible, the shoe is really on the other foot and they often end up having to cajole busy people to get around to polishing their lecture notes. Thus unlike in other fields where I gather conference proceedings get novel work out quickly, in mathematics the proceedings can appear two years or more after the conference, which is slow even compared to journal publication.

3) There seems to be a sense that conferences (with certain obvious exceptions like the ICM) are more social occasions than serious professional events. (I mean, if I want to hear about the crackerjack theorem you proved last week, it's likely I can just download it from the arxiv or your webpage or ask you to send me a copy.) The number one reason mathematicians like to give conferences is to celebrate someone's birthday, and a popular followup is to train young people in the field: these are often called "summer schools". There is a sort of community awareness that -- again, with certain famous and not so recent exceptions like the Grothendieck Festschrift -- such conference proceedings are more likely to contain heartfelt remarks about one's revered former advisor than really cutting edge research. I have even heard some people jokingly refer to Festschrifts as dumping grounds for inferior product.

  • 1
    I disagree with 3). whilst social interactions are definitely part of a conference the conferences themselves are in my view very serious professional events where one gets to hear the ideas behind theorems which are not always present in a paper and where you can extend your network. This holds a fortiori for students and junior staff These sort of statements are exactly what administrators will use to cut our limited funding even further. Commented Jun 14, 2022 at 7:09

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .