I am scheduled to present part of my PhD research at a conference in a few months. This will be my first conference after graduating from my PhD. I am now a postdoc at another university, but my current adviser's policy is to fund conference travel only for postdocs presenting research done by with him, i.e. he would not fund my travel to this conference to present research I had done during my PhD which did not involve him.

Is it normal for a PhD adviser to fund conference travel for graduated students, if the students are presenting work they have done during their PhD? If the graduated student had tenure-track jobs and their own source of funding for conference travel, then clearly the graduated student would be expected to use his/her own funding.

However, in my case, when I do not have funding for conference travel, is it normal to expect my PhD adviser to provide funding? I will ask my adviser about this directly, but I was wondering if there is a standard expected behavior for PhD advisers that generally applies in my situation.

If my PhD adviser is unable/unwilling to fund my travel, is it unreasonable for me to say that I cannot attend the conference? (I estimate the total cost of attending the conference to be ~$1K.)

Update: I asked my PhD adviser whether he could fund my conference travel, and he said yes immediately.

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    It's quite common for research grants to fund travel only for research done on that particular topic as part of that project.
    – Peteris
    Aug 29, 2014 at 11:41
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    Just a gentle suggestion: Would it be possible to have your co-authors (if any, including your PhD advisor) to present the work instead? As @StrongBad pointed out, no-shows cause headaches to the conference organizers at this point.
    – user8661
    Aug 29, 2014 at 14:06
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    Is it normal for a PhD adviser to fund conference travel for graduated students — Not generally, no. It's virtually impossible for me to reimburse someone who is neither a student nor an employee of my university from my grants. On the other hand, if I'm not willing to a postdoc's conference travel, I shouldn't hire them.
    – JeffE
    Aug 29, 2014 at 23:14
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    With some flexibility you can reduce your conference budget. Avoid staying at fancy hotels, stay at a hostel, or do couchsurfing or airbnb. I am amazed at how some phd/postdoc complain about the lack of conference funds when they want to stay at a $100 a night hotel, especially these days. Aug 30, 2014 at 20:21

4 Answers 4


One should always figure out the funding issues before submitting an abstract to a conference. Presenters withdrawing from a conference are a major headache to the conference organizers and it is unreasonable to expect them to reorganize the conference program because you did not figure out your travel plans (either timing or funding) in advanced. There are cases where there is nothing you can do (e.g., having a child), but in general when you submit an abstract you are committing yourself to presenting the work.

As to who should fund your travel, the best would have been to ask when you submitted to the conference. There really isn't a standard for who should pay. The first issue is to determine if your PhD advisor or Post Doc Advisor has money that could be used to pay for your travel. They would have to have money that could, if they desired, be used to fund your travel, and be willing to fund your travel.

I would ask both people and see what they say. No one is going to be offended by you asking. I wouldn't be surprised if both said no, but nor would I be surprised if both said yes.

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    Regarding the first paragraph, maybe the OP had not yet changed affiliations when submitting to the conference? I think this happens quite commonly, and it is often not possible to take the related funding issues fully into account when planning where and when to submit.
    – silvado
    Sep 1, 2014 at 11:39

You might see if there are other sources of funding available from your current university. Commonly they do have some travel funding available for their researchers who don't have grant money, and you might be eligible. It might not cover everything, or there might be some sort of competitive application process, but it is worth checking. It may be administered through a unit called "Office of Research" or something like that.

In my field it's pretty common for postdocs to be allotted some funding of their very own from the university, that they can spend on travel, etc. I assume if you had this, you wouldn't be asking the question, but it's just possible that if you didn't read fine print, you might have overlooked it.


As a PhD student, I disagree with some of the advice here. Students (and post doctoral fellows) can be pressured by their university/advisor to publish and present at conferences. At my university there were specific PhD sub Courses that had to be complete and this involved presenting at different level conferences. So essentially, you needed to at least submit papers to these conferences or else you would not get your PhD. In my case, I applied (submitted a paper) to an international conference and my paper was accepted. I soon wished it wasn't because my university did not cover all costs and going would cut into my own funds by about 1000 dollars. Do not blame students for backing out or for 'disrupting' a presenter list when the universities themselves often do not tell the students what 'conference travel' entails. To the person saying to sleep on floors etc, NO. Students should be able to say "i do not wish to go" without ANY PENALTY. simple.


Ask yourself who gets the benefit? Will your previous instutition as it is work related to your time there, or your present instuitution, or just you. To fund they will want to know it's going to be advantageous to them. You will need to convice them. Or, chat to someone else who is going to the confermce and arrange to sleep on their floor, cancel the hotel booking, miss the formal dinners and boldly wander into buffets to get them free. Still do the networking, present your paper and plan ahead next time. But always remember that life can change overnight as it did for me, and ill health stopped both the conferences and my working - then who pays for a conference is a monor issue!

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