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The following question is triggered by reading this recent question as well as by a recent case of an organizing committee member approaching me with invitation to present at a well-known (at least, within my discipline of information systems and a larger management sciences field) conference.

Unfortunately, I had to politely decline his kind invitation and an exciting opportunity for academic research career building and networking, especially considering that I am a beginning researcher. The reason for why I had to decline that promising invitation is twofold:

1) at this time, I'm a non-affiliated (independent) researcher with no financial support for research activities, including attending conferences - needless to say that I simply cannot afford to attend them on my own (but, even, if I would be, say, a postdoctoral researcher with some research budget, as far as I know, funds for attending conferences or similar events are quite limited);

2) my current life circumstances are not too favorable in terms of traveling (though, it is possible); moreover, I tend to agree with the "time lost" point, mentioned in this nice answer (though, I realize that it is a matter of assessing and balancing between time and effort spent on preparation for presenting at a conference and a potential academic and career value of a prospective event).

Considering all the above-mentioned points and circumstances, my questions are as follows:

Is it possible to build a good research academic career, avoiding publishing for (and, thus, presenting at) conferences and, instead, focusing at disseminating research artifacts via journal publications (in addition to working papers, industry articles, workshops, etc.)?

To what extent, if any, it would be damaging to a researcher, especially in early career, to use the strategy above and what are some potential mitigation strategic and tactical measures other than attending (and presenting at) conferences?

Note: My questions above imply conferences only, as workshops or similar smaller events seem to be more affordable and, sometimes, even, free to attend and/or to present at.

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    I think the answer to the first question is very field-dependant, as some fields (e.g. CS) use conferences as their primary publication venue. Are you in such a field?
    – Mangara
    Jul 26, 2015 at 21:47
  • @Mangara: As I've mentioned in my question, my field is information systems (IS) or, largely, management science (often referred to under the social sciences umbrella term). In IS, AFAIK, research dissemination occurs via both channels (journals and conferences) about equally. Having said that, journal publications rank higher then ones in conference proceedings (and that, I think, is a pretty common concept to academia in general). Jul 26, 2015 at 22:01
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    @AleksandrBlekh I'm afraid that the answer to your question is so dependent on your specific field (and perhaps even subfield) as well as geographic region that only people in your field and geographic region can answer. This is a concern not just about this question but about many other questions here; academia behaves very differently in different places and many questions turn out far more localized than we think. I am skeptical you can get a good answer here that is more than a poll of how things behave in specific fields not yours. That is why you need a mentor in your specific field. Jul 27, 2015 at 1:26
  • @AlexanderWoo: Fair enough (+1). However, both IS and management science are very wide fields due to them being multi-disciplinary. Thus, my question is not very narrow. In addition, I'm indeed interested in a relevant situations in different, especially adjacent, fields (which are many, again, thanks to the multi-disciplinarity). I would love to have mentors, but, in the meantime, peeking Academia.SE's collective wisdom seems like a good idea (isn't that one of its goals?), hence my question. Jul 27, 2015 at 1:58

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The primary argument against your strategy arises when you go up for promotion: if senior people in your field can't really "tie" you to your work—in other words, if you're someone who has published some really good papers, but are otherwise "invisible" in the community, it will be hard to write the positive letters of reference needed for a successful tenure case.

However, that is not to say that the strategy of focusing on disseminating research is not important—indeed, the two strategies need to go hand-in-hand! So I would argue that networking will become more critical once you have independent work of your own to share.

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  • Thank you for your insights (+1). However, I think that you somehow missed one of the main points of my question: the strategy I'm evaluating implies (as I said) not avoiding all types of disseminating research artifacts, but just conferences. (to be continued) Jul 26, 2015 at 21:53
  • (cont'd) My first sub-question specifically asks about journal publications as an alternative to conferences publications (with the obvious reason / potential benefit being lack of the need to travel in the former case). I realize that conferences include significant element of beneficial and, even, in grand scheme of things, vital, networking, but journals as a channel of disseminating research seems to be as good, if not better, as conferences. Thus, your "being invisible" argument seems to be unfounded from that perspective. Jul 26, 2015 at 21:53
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    In my experience, to a first approximation, no one reads any papers that they haven't previously heard about in a talk. Jul 26, 2015 at 21:58
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    @AlexanderWoo: This is very strange, as IMHO any solid literature review should be based on existing research streams and state-of-the-art, not on researchers' direct exposure to existing research via listening to a talk (it is simply not feasible, considering the amount of research papers, produced in most fields). Jul 26, 2015 at 22:05
  • @AleksandrBlekh: In pure mathematics, almost all papers are very specialized and technical, building on only one or two previous pieces of work. A thorough literature review is rarely necessary, though a well-written introduction telling (with appropriate citations) the history of your approach to the problem you work on is usually well-appreciated. Jul 26, 2015 at 22:28
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A long time ago I was told in no uncertain terms that anyone's career prospects are critically dependent on whom one has beers with and that conferences etc are the prime occasion to have beers with the right people.

A few decades later, I can honestly say that nothing I have experienced points to the falsity of that statement, and most everything tends to support it.

I wish this weren't the point I am making, since I do not like it any more than you do!

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    I upvoted. One of the meanings of symposium is drinking party and conferences are symposiums. As well, my experience appears to be similar to what you describe: visibility counts.
    – Ed V
    Nov 21, 2021 at 23:45
  • Thank you for sharing your experience and thoughts (even though I have left academia, at least, for now). Apparently, if one doesn't like beer, their career prospects are doomed. :-) Nov 23, 2021 at 21:12

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