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My paper has been accepted at one of the top conferences in my field for oral presentation (very low acceptance rate).
In the past, I have always presented papers for which I was first author myself. However, this time I may be not be able to present myself (the date and location make it harder for me to attend the conference).
I can let the second author present and I am sure he would do a great job, but I am afraid to miss an opportunity to improve my career.
What do you think? Could it make a difference in my career, like getting you in touch with more people? Would it make me more recognizable?
Or is the fact that my paper has been accepted for oral presentation what really matters?

The field is machine learning, if it matters (maybe things are different depending on the field).

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  • What career stage are you?
    – academic
    May 15 at 13:11
  • 4
    Postdoc stage .
    – Simon
    May 15 at 14:19
  • 1
    Are you trying to decide between going or not going to the conference? Or are you sure you aren't able to go, and you're trying to decide between having the second author present or having nobody present? In the second case, absolutely have the second author present. In the first case, it depends significantly on your reasons for (possibly) not being able to go. May 16 at 8:06
  • For papers where you are second author, wouldn’t you expect to be “allowed” to present them?
    – PLL
    May 16 at 13:38
  • @GregMartin I am 99% sure I can't go.
    – Simon
    May 16 at 15:17

3 Answers 3

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Congratulations on having your paper accepted! I wouldn't worry too much about presenting the paper yourself. Conferences are a good way to broaden your network, but missing one in one year won't be detrimental to your career.

You could ask your co-author who is presenting for you to add a slide at the end of their presentation which has your contact information/website and to specifically state that people should get in touch with you in case of any questions. In this way, people who are really interested in your research will seek you out after the conference and you can still grow your network and establish collaborations.

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    Thanks, adding the slide at the end is a very good idea!
    – Simon
    May 16 at 2:42
  • "...but missing one in one year won't be detrimental to your career..." presumably being a postdoc is a short window for certain opportunities; while these words are comforting in nature they are hard to support. Early in one's career one should look for every possible opportunity to interact with others. However if the OP can't go they can't go, so the slide is a great idea!
    – uhoh
    May 16 at 19:28
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On a few occasions where coauthors of mine gave talks about our joint papers, I heard later from colleagues who were there that my coauthors said extremely positive things about me and how essential my contributions to the paper were. I would never have dared to praise myself in such a way or to even think that I deserved that sort of praise (nor would anyone be inclined to believe these sorts of statements if I were saying them about myself).

These experiences made me realize the importance of acknowledging and praising your collaborators when you talk about joint work, so ever since then I try to praise my coauthors in a similar way (assuming that I actually believe in the praise, which is often enough), knowing that I am free to say positive (and accurate) things about them that they could not get away with saying about themselves.

So, as you can see, a talk by a collaborator has the potential to be more useful for your career than a talk you are giving yourself. Of course, that’s not guaranteed (some coauthors will not be so thoughtful and will focus on their own contributions and importance), and there are other effects going in the opposite direction. It’s just something to keep in mind.

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  • Never thought about that, thanks!
    – Simon
    May 16 at 2:32
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    @Simon I've also seen this happen several times and had a similar experience of finding out how well someone spoke of me at a meeting I couldn't attend. I agree that this is the right way to approach the situation.
    – uhoh
    May 16 at 19:32
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There are a lot of reasons for attending conferences in your field, but personally presenting a paper is probably pretty ephemeral. You might get noticed. Sure. But the more important consideration is the long term effect of the contribution/importance of the paper itself. That will live on, long after the 50 minutes or so of a live presentation.

But this requires a value judgement. How important are the other options that you say make it hard to attend? I found a lot of value in just talking to colleagues at conferences and other meetings whether I presented anything or not. That builds collaboration.

Don't obsess over it. It will be fine.

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