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I am a student doing my undergrad in Electronics and Communication engineering and wish to pursue a career in Avionics. My paper was selected for presentation at 54th AIAA Aerospace Sciences Meeting, AIAA Science and Technology Forum and Exposition 2016 (SciTech 2016). I have another paper which was selected for presentation at IEEE Aerospace Conference 2016. According to my understanding, these are reputed conferences. I was wondering how valuable these papers are for my admission at a grad school and my professional career. I have to spend a lot of money to attend these conferences. Is it worth it?

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    I recommend to modify your title to say something like "... conference paper in <your field>?" (where your field is aerospace engineering or something like that?). The value of conference publications varies significantly between fields, and the question seems a lot more generic (and thereby less answerable) with its current title than what you probably want it to be. Sep 24, 2015 at 13:22
  • In the closely related fields of electrical and optical engineering, this would make you a good candidate for grad school, even for a second tier conference, especially if the paper(s) were good.
    – daaxix
    Sep 25, 2015 at 4:50
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    @O.R.Mapper - Acknowledged! Sep 25, 2015 at 15:07
  • @daaxix - How good are SciTech and IEEE Aeroconf? Sep 25, 2015 at 15:08
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    I'm not in aerospace, but a quick glance at the sponsors/presenters at both of these conferences left a very good impression. SciTech had speakers from some major industrial players (Lockheed, Boeing), big research universities (Harvard, UT Austin), and key government positions (DARPA, GAO). The IEEE Aerospace Conference had JPL and NASA engineers everywhere, not to mention Ivy League researchers and more. Again - I'd defer to those who are actually in the field, but these both look like highly reputable (not sure about selective) conferences.
    – tonysdg
    Sep 26, 2015 at 2:18

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There is 2 parts to this question:

(1) How valuable are conference papers to grad school admission?

The answer to that is field-dependent. In some fields, the value of conferences as means of publishing scientific content is perceived small. In others, primarily Computer Science, conferences are of major importance, hence papers in good conferences are perceived as very valuable for admission.

However, arguably, even in fields were conference papers count less, having published in and attending good conferences may make you stand out of the crowd in grad school admissions. Primarily, in these fields (e.g., physics), undergrads that have good journal papers to their name are very rare, so having been to a conference as an undergrad is already pretty good, even if it does not count for all that much in the grand scheme of things in the research field.

(2) Is it worth it given that conferences are very expensive?

I am of course generalising here, but as a rule of thumb, you should not have to pay for your own conference travels, as long as you have an accepted paper as an enrolled student. Most universities have stipends and travel grants that you can apply for, you can act as a student volunteer, or, most importantly, your university department covers your travel expenses.

Assuming that it is indeed not feasible for you to have your costs covered, you will need to take the decision yourself. Whether it's "worth it" depends not only on the value of a conference to the admission process, but also on how much >1000 USD are to you, personally. Clearly, the story is different if you are a foreign student living of a small stipend than if you come from an upper middle-class family in the US.

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  • Thank you for the answer! The field is Avionics and Aerospace engineering! How important are conference papers? And how good are AIAA SciTech and IEEE Aeroconf? Sep 25, 2015 at 15:15
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    @SriHarshaPavuluri unless someone is from those fields, they can't answer that. The best person to answer that might be your supervisor. A quick litmus test for whether a conference is good or useful is to look at the lists of attendees and invited speakers. If a number of well-respected academics are attending, it's probably a good conference. If it's full of no-names, then maybe not...
    – Moriarty
    Sep 25, 2015 at 16:21
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In most cases, universities do admire students who publish in important conferences, as students need to put their institute down. It actually helps the universities in their research rankings.

So, I would suggest contact the secretary of your department, and explain the situation. Most likely, they have some money laying around to fund you to go to these conferences.

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  • How good are AIAA SciTech and IEEE Aeroconf? Sep 25, 2015 at 15:14
  • @SriHarshaPavuluri It depends on many factors, such as number of influential contributes in the domain of research, how many citations their published papers get over the years and so on. All these factors should be take into considerations by you (the author).
    – o-0
    Sep 26, 2015 at 10:16

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