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I just had an abstract accepted by a UK conference and will be submitting the final paper in a few months. We were notified by email of the acceptance and directed to register for the conference. The information we were sent currently does not mention a presentation and the schedule is not yet posted.

Does this mean that I will definitely be presenting at the conference? Or are abstracts/papers sometimes accepted but not presented?

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    Yes, it's absolutely reasonable to ask the department to pay. However, you should have agreed this with them before submitting the paper. Obviously, funds are finite so the department has to prioritize and they would obviously prefer to pay for cheaper and/or more prestigious conferences (of course, those two goals are often mutually exclusive). In general, you should avoid putting yourself in the position where you have to pay for your own conference expenses: this usually means being selective about which conferences you submit to. – David Richerby Mar 5 '15 at 20:58
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    You say "We were notified", which I assume means you and your supervisor. Since your supervisor was fully aware that the paper was being submitted, he or she should have already planned how to pay for one or both of you to go to the conference. – David Richerby Mar 5 '15 at 20:59
  • I am just wondering... How can a conference accept papers based only on their abstracts? Isn't it an indication regarding the (lack of) seriousness of the conference? – PatW Mar 5 '15 at 21:50
  • @PatW: Different academic cultures. For instance, in mathematics conference submissions are not peer-reviewed (and hence nobody considers a conference presentation to be comparable to a publication). Organizers typically accept as many submissions as possible, provided they appear to be actual research. The abstract submission is mostly just to verify that your proposed presentation is on-topic for the conference and that you are not a raving lunatic, and to help the organizers estimate how much space is needed and to group related talks together. – Nate Eldredge Mar 6 '15 at 4:46
  • Similar to @NateEldredge and his comment on mathematics, abstracts to public health/medical conferences are often peer reviewed, but its generally just a "No, just no...", "Poster" or "Oral Presentation" ranking system, and they're not considered to be even remotely comparable to an actual publication. – Fomite Mar 6 '15 at 19:46
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The practices vary significantly by field, but unless it is a very unusual case, having your abstract accepted means that you will be presented in some form or another. It is not certain, however, whether you will be making an oral presentation.

In some meetings, having your abstract accepted means that you are definitely going to be getting up on stage and presenting. In others, it means that you will definitely not be presenting, but will be given a chance to stand next to a poster in a distant corner of a giant room where nobody will realize that you are even there. Most are somewhere in the middle, and you cannot know where it will fall on that spectrum without asking the organizers or looking at information from past conferences.

In all cases, however, it is reasonable to approach your advisor / department to ask about travel support. Whether you can get full support depends on their policies and finances. If you cannot, many conferences also have student travel grants or opportunities to work as a conference volunteer in return for having some of your costs compensated.

  • Good to point out that you've also small grant agencies and foundations that offer student travel support. Someone around you could point you out to something. I cannot since I'm not in the UK (and it would probably be a too specific question for this site). – yo' Mar 6 '15 at 0:26
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Yes, "accepted" means that your talk is going to be included in the program (when it's published) and you are expected to present it at the conference. Congratulations! Don't get your hopes up though, your time slot could be as short as 15 minutes and in parallel with other talks, and the conference organizers will not contribute any money towards your accommodation or registration costs (unless explicitly stated).

If this is a joint work with your advisor and/or they suggested you to apply for the conference, probably they have already plans for the funding to be covered by your department (usually, under their research funds or under a common fund for phd students). If you applied for the conference without telling anybody, this is unusual and it will be a surprise for them. Ask your advisor, definitely, but the answer is not a certain "yes", especially if they are short on funding.

If I can add some more advice, don't be afraid to talk to your advisor for matters such as this one. It is a reasonable doubt and it's understandable that you have it, since you have zero experience with conferences.

It is crucial for the future of your doctorate that there is a direct and healthy line of communication between you two.

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    In many fields, being accepted does not mean getting an oral presentation slot. – jakebeal Mar 5 '15 at 15:57
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This may get lost among the other good answers, but it's worth looking at the conference website for last year's edition of the conference (or the last several) in order to find out about the format. If it's entirely organized around parallel sessions of paper presentations, then you're likely to be giving a talk. If it's an even mix of posters and talks, then it might be up in the air.

Also, you should look at the Call for Participation for this year again as well. If posters are mentioned as a separate submission item with a different date or other specification, then it's likely you submitted for a talk and should be presenting one. It might also say there whether accepted abstracts will be invited for talks, posters, or a mix.

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First of all don't worry about whether the question is silly or not. There are no silly questions, there are only silly questions ;) Moreover, it's pretty normal for early PhD students to be unacquainted with the 'politics' of academia (how publishing works, differences between venues, etc..). So it is pretty normal to ask your supervisor about these stuff, otherwise he/she might assume that you know that information already and, then, you will be in trouble.

In my field, some conferences base their acceptance on the abstract only, meaning that they accept or reject your abstract, and based on that you get an opportunity to write the full paper, submit it and present. I am sad to say that usually these conferences are not really strong ones.. but in any case going through the submission process and getting the opportunity to write a paper and present it has a lot of benefits that outbalance the strength of the conference.

You should examine the conference's website, you could also email the organizers. Usually they should clarify whether accepted contributions are to be presented in talks, or as posters (where you print a poster, stand next to it and answer questions of those who pass by).

I don't know any venue that accepts contributions without planning them to be presented. So I really doubt that.

As for the funding, yes it is always okay to ask, if they can't fund you they'll just say that they can't. They could also agree but set limits to the accommodation (e.g. it doesn't have to be a 5-stars hotel). If your supervisor recommended submitting a paper there then he probably knows that it is possible to fund you to attend.

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I would suggest that, as the other answers say, you should talk to your advisor about this. First off, they will be happy to explain the process to you. In fact, I'd go so far as to take a guess that your advisor will have potentially published in this conference before (you could check their past publications to see if this is the case). Was your advisor aware that you had submitted to the conference? (I will presume so, as in my experience, UK PhD students typically show their papers to their advisors prior to submission). If not, it might be helpful to do so in future, as it allows them to anticipate the potential need for conference funding in advance.

I know that my first publication was at a conference which my advisor had previously presented at many times before (as well as having at one point been an organiser). As to if you will give an oral presentation or not, that is highly conference-specific. My first conference presentation was highly unusual, in that I ended up having around 1 hour to give a presentation and field an extended Q&A session (which was very helpful). Don't fret though - this was highly unusual, and I was aware of it in advance. You will more likely either be giving a poster presentation, or a standard-length presentation with a few minutes for questions. I simply give this example to highlight that you really should speak to your advisor, as every conference is different.

Don't feel silly about asking your supervisor, however. I am sure they will be supportive, and happy to explain how this works. They should also be happy to explain how the process of paying for conferences works (since it is hardly an elephant in the room - conference publications are relatively expensive). There might even be a designated fund to pay for student publications.

While certainly not always the case, I had my own budget for conference travel and registration fees, and was able to simply use this to pay for conferences and travel. For my first conference, I spent roughly the same as you are talking about spending, so that's not wholly unreasonable. Conferences can be expensive, but the opportunities to network, meet other researchers, and share your work are important, and your advisor should understand this and be able to help you understand what is going on.

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