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The title pretty much speaks for itself. My supervisor and I (non-academics) submitted a paper to a professional conference and will be presenting a poster. The publication deadline was first, so we got the paper finished and submitted and are now working on the poster. My supervisor has given me feedback to include some figures in the poster that we didn't include in the paper. This seems weird to me. I would think that the poster should really just be a subset of the information in the paper and shouldn't add anything new. The "new" information isn't significant, just slightly different plots, but it still seemed odd to me. Am I right that this isn't standard?

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    It probably depends on the field and the particular conference, but for most accelerator physics conferences the important thing is that the poster or talk and the proceedings paper are both reasonably well described by the original version of the abstract.
    – Jake
    Jun 24 at 18:49
  • Why not compare that to a newspaper, which might have a "stop press" item? Should the paper drop that item, or include it with a label explaining it's new information, or what? yesterday

5 Answers 5

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If you have new useful information, why not put it on the poster? The paper documents the state of the project at a specific point in time, but you have learned more. It even makes an easy excuse to discuss how the project is evolving and where you are going next with the people who show up at your poster (which is kind of the point of giving a poster, the talking that is).

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    Good reasoning, though in this case the "new" information isn't actually new results. It's just a slightly different way of plotting the old information that we didn't include in the paper.
    – David K
    Jun 23 at 15:18
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    In this case: by all means! The presentation of a poster can be geared differently than in a paper. Jun 23 at 21:53
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I don't see any issues with it at all. The latest information is probably most useful to anyone interested.

Some people will want to withhold some new actual results for a future paper of course, but that doesn't seem like the issue here.

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Possibly this varies a bit by field, but I would not say there is anything wrong or weird about the poster content not matching the paper identically.

If you have new information: a better way of presenting the data, a newly recognized explanation for some result, a caveat that should moderate interpretation of the result, etc, you would be doing a disservice to the people visiting your poster to omit the best information.

There's also the issue that the format is different, and some aspects of figures/diagrams simply work better on a poster than they do in a paper, or vice-versa. People are viewing the information in a different way in a different medium. These days, it's also becoming more and more common (at least in my field) for people to use tablets and other devices to augment their posters and provide things like video or interactive displays that don't work in a PDF or printed paper.

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Actually, adding new information -- if substantial -- can be seen as a breach of academic etiquette. Your poster paper was accepted (of course) on what was submitted. The reviewers agreed that it was sound. If you add something that would be stupid, this would reflect poorly on the conference.

In real life, posters are not considered publications, even in Computer Science, but just a means to lure graduate students to a conference (from the perspective of the organizers - been there, done that) and to get some feed-back and maybe make contacts from the point of few of the presenters. Thus, poster presentations are not scrutinized as papers would be.

In your case, the change would be marginal, more a matter of presentation than of substance, so that you will be fine if you do so. Also, you are not in academia, so your actions will be judged with a lot more margin.

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    That is interesting. It never occured to me that this could be considered to be a bad action. For example last week I was at a conference where a poster presented work where not even the preprint was online yet and that was the most exciting poster for me (and most of my friends). Probably that depends a lot on the field. Jun 23 at 17:14
  • Of course, it depends a lot on the field. I know of some big guys in databases who were (informally) reprimanded for improving their paper between acceptance and publication at a conference.
    – tschwarz
    Jun 23 at 18:24
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    Thanks for sharing that (+1). It is always good to know what might get oneself into troubles. Jun 23 at 21:06
  • In real life, posters are considered publications from the point of view of intellectual property, e.g. patents. Heck, presenting to a public forum of a dozen people is considered publication for IP purposes. It may be hard to prove that something was discussed verbally in such a forum, or that something was presented in a poster session that was not preserved, but it still amounts to publication for the purposes of patents.
    – Krazy Glew
    Jun 24 at 3:28
  • just a means to lure - I hate it when magazines block quote themselves half a page before they say it. Even worse is a block quote taken out of context and not even in the article. The poster is at some level, click bait.
    – Mazura
    Jun 26 at 3:10
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It depends on the nature and context of the addition. If it's telling the same story as the version that was approved, I wouldn't balk at a few extra figures or minor error fixes.

But if the new content makes a significant change to the story, or if there are potential conflicts of interest involved, that becomes more problematic.

As an example of where this kind of thing can go wrong, I once knew a senior researcher who had a heated disagreement with two junior colleagues on how to interpret some research data. Without getting into details, there were some major conflicts of interest involved - it was very much to his advantage and to that of his institute that the broader research community should accept his interpretation.

A few weeks later, the two juniors were fired for non-specific "operational reasons". Around the same time, Senior Researcher attended a conference where he presented a poster and talk. In these presentations he promoted his own interpretation of the data, and listed the two fired juniors as co-authors. By convention this would usually imply that they agreed with his interpretation.

In fact, they had never endorsed this content and only found out about it after the conference, whereupon they had to contact the organisers to request removal of their names.

Poster/talk presentations get more leeway than journal papers because it's nice to have the most current material at a conference, but that flexibility shouldn't be treated as a loophole for evading checks on material that the presenter can reasonably expect to be controversial.

If one's unsure, it might be an option to contact the conference organisers and give them a quick summary of intended changes from the accepted version.

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