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I'm fairly early on in my PhD research. A few months ago I submitted an abstract to a conference, which was accepted. The conference is coming up soon, and my research has taken a slight turn away from my accepted abstract (still same field, collaborators, etc...--just asking slightly different questions and taking a slightly different approach).

My question is, am I obligated to put the program-accepted abstract on my poster? If I am, should I try to tie my poster content as closely to that accepted abstract as possible? Or can I present poster content that would've been more appropriate for a different abstract?

Or can I use a different abstract on my poster, and thus tie the content more closely to what my current research path is?

What about keeping the original abstract in its entirely, but appending it?

EDIT: I'm in the field of astrobiology (probably most similar to the fields of geology or astronomy if I had to relate it to a more conventional field)

  • You can get more specific answers by mentioning the field you are in. I can speak to mathematics, where you have a lot of latitude to change the abstract - nobody is likely to mention it even if you make significant changes. – Oswald Veblen Jul 22 '14 at 0:03
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I work in astronomy.

I have never heard of anyone in authority at a conference complain about a slight deviation from a submitted abstract.

I suggest writing your poster on your new direction, with a corresponding abstract.

I would also submit your amended abstract to the LOC of the conference as soon as possible. Mention that your work has taken a slight turn but the main topic and co-authors are unchanged.

If there is time, the LOC can include your amended abstract on any web-page or hard-copy documentation. Apologise for the inconvenience that this may cause the LOC and ask nicely that they make these amendments, if possible.

Even if these documents cannot be altered, I doubt that anyone is going to get upset that your new abstract is not exactly the same that you originally submitted.

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  • I don't work in astronomy. I think the answer is conference specific as well as field specific. For some conferences, getting the abstract right the first time and submitting changes is a big deal. (icm2014.org is a current example for me.) In addition to talking to the local organizing committee (LOC), it would be prudent to talk to other attendees (past attendees if it is a periodic thing) of this conference to get their take. Another route to go is to use the old poster, but mention a handout on the web somewhere indicating the updates and new directions. – Not Quite An Outsider Jul 22 '14 at 4:26
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In most fields, it is quite common for the subject matter of either a poster or a talk to stray quite significantly from the submitted and accepted abstract. This is understood as part of the "cost" of asking for abstracts to be submitted months before the conference is actually held. If people want to present cutting-edge research, then it will often require either a generic abstract or deviations from what was submitted.

That said, you can't arbitrarily change your poster topic too much—it should still be in the general area of the poster or abstract you submitted (otherwise it may end up being out of place in the session where it's presented). But deviations that stay within the topic matter are fine.

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