I am a PhD student in mathematics, and I noticed that on my peers' CV's, they often list conferences they attended. It seems as if they just attended these conferences, they did not help organize, nor did they give a talk.

Should I list conferences I only attended on my CV, or does it look like obvious filler?

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    I only add conferences that I presented. That being said, it's a pretty short list, but I can remember everything about them in the event someone asks me about it rather than say something canned. – Compass Oct 16 '14 at 5:34
  • My advisor told to add the list of attended conferences when he was asked about it. The subject is pure mathematics, if that is relevant. – Tommi Oct 16 '14 at 7:12
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    I'm in computer science and I only list published papers. IMHO, being funded to be in a place (possibly sleeping) is not an achievement worthy of mention. – Trylks Oct 16 '14 at 10:09

In general, you can put pretty much whatever you want in your CV (unless there is a template, in which case deciding what to put or not should be pretty straight-forward). The question is: what is the point of putting a piece of information in your CV?

Usually, a CV is used in the context of a recruitment process, where the point, in the end, is to give reasons to the recruiter to recruit you instead of someone else. Hence, a piece of information contained in a CV should be instructive, for instance by ensuring that you do have the proper credentials, or by providing evidence that you can be apt to the position you are applying for.

Perhaps attending conferences is something relatively rare in your field, and you have attended more than the average PhD students? In that case, listing all the conferences you have attended could indicate you are very interested in keeping up with recent advances in your field. It could also show that you enjoy travelling. Perhaps you have secure internal or external funding to attend that conference (i.e., the funding was not automatically given)? That's also good evidence. You could list them if it provides evidence for an aspect that you are willing to emphasise in your application.

On the other hand, if the conferences you have attended had nothing special, or do not help emphasising any particular point, then you might want to keep the space in your CV for something else.

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Maybe the customs are different in mathematics, but in computer science I would never consider putting attendance of an ordinary conference on a C.V. Now, there might be certain exceptional cases where there's some sort of exclusive prestigious invitation-only conference, but that would be a rather unusual case. Most of the time, the only thing that attending a conference shows is that you had access to enough money to be able to register and show up. I, at least, would see a list of conferences attended as filler.

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  • I've always had the list of attended conferences in my CV, just because I modeled mine after other math PhD students, but as my list grew, I started to feel like it is just becoming meaningless filler. Thanks for your response. – Felix Y. Oct 16 '14 at 5:12
  • Right, invitation-only conferences, excellent point. Those may mean something. – Trylks Oct 16 '14 at 10:11

It may not be a big achievement just to attend a conference, however participation with the poster and especially oral presentation I think could be mentioned, especially by students who may not have any publications yet.

Conferences should be listed separately, not confusing them with peer reviewed publications that are much more significant achievements. This list must include the header of your poster or presentation, co-authors, not just the name of the conference.

After there are enough published serious works, a list of conferences does not make much sense.

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    This answers a different question than what was asked. – David Ketcheson Oct 16 '14 at 9:40
  • How do you see it different? – h22 Oct 16 '14 at 9:48
  • You're primarily addressing conference presentations rather than attendance. – David Ketcheson Oct 16 '14 at 9:53
  • Participation is definitively relevant, there is a huge difference from presenting a poster to an invited talk, but they are in the same or a similar category. IMHO. BTW: in some (many?) areas, conferences (or at least conference papers) are peer reviewed (and are considered the most relevant venues). – Trylks Oct 16 '14 at 10:13
  • @DavidKetcheson I think the first paragraph and last sentence addresses the OP question (maybe the answer requires a bit of reorganizing?). In my field conferences (with poster/oral presentation) are a very good way to demonstrate experience/accomplishments when there is not yet enough publications, so it is a good idea to include them. Later, when other more important accomplishments exists, it is not necessary to include them. Essentially I agree with this post. – ddiez Oct 16 '14 at 13:59

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