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I recently won the "Best Student Paper" award at a moderately significant conference in my field (subfield of CS). This came with a Trophy and a Certificate. The trophy I will put in the corner of my the lab, and use for motivation. But I don't know what to do with the certificate.

What should I be doing with the certificate? Do I need to save it to prove to someone later my paper did actually get the award? Surely they can look it up online.

I am generally opposed to the hoarding of documents -- I strive to minimise the number of physical possessions I have.

So I was kinda thinking of just using it as scrap paper...

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    For a start, scan it and add the image file to your paper's source control for archival. – O. R. Mapper Apr 14 '16 at 6:39
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    Obviously, I meant archival storage or some other complete expression. But now that my above comment has received 18 upvotes, I'd hate to delete and replace it with a corrected version. – O. R. Mapper Apr 14 '16 at 22:13
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    @O.R.Mapper Solution: write an answer and get 30 upvotes. :-) Oh, and re scanning, make sure it's a color high res color scan. Maybe have it "professionally" done, if that makes sense? – Faheem Mitha Apr 15 '16 at 14:56
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    I've saved these sorts of things in a folder. I've never ever needed to show one to anyone but I occasionally have needed details from them. So saving an image is probably sufficient. – Michael Hoffman Apr 15 '16 at 19:02
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You will probably never in your life need the physical certificate.

If you don't want to hang onto it, you can probably just dispose of it (though you might as well scan it first).

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    Except in countries where your references are not as important as documents when you are applying for a job. One day you might apply for a job in Germany and then the certificate might be useful. Keeping a scan of the document is the minimum for any achievements you might want to list in your CV. – Roland Apr 14 '16 at 6:58
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Give it to a relative (parent, spouse?). My mother has a "wall of Sergio" in the house where she displays different types of significant awards, letters, etc. I think it's a little weird, but giving them these awards is a nice way to let them have a handy reminder of what you're up to at the time, and parents certainly appreciate it sometimes. My mother and I came from not very much at all, so she is so happy to hear I am doing something with my life -- maybe your family may feel the same.

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    A "wall of Sergio" is possibly the cutest thing I've heard of today. – Tobia Tesan Apr 14 '16 at 8:27
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    I would love to give your mom a hug and tell her "great job". Thank you for sharing this, it's touching and funny and sweet and makes one feel a little better about humanity. (Feel free to screenshot this comment and send it to your mom for the wall. :) ). – msouth Apr 14 '16 at 16:00
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    ++ In my culture (English) we use the toilet wall for this. – Nathan Cooper Apr 15 '16 at 8:43
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    I can't accept this answer (good as it may be, for most people), that prompted me down the path of not wanting to keep paper was receiving two huge, packed full ring binders from my mother, with every little award, report, swimming certificate, report, etc down to hand-written things made at primary school camps. Even my mother no longer wants these. – Lyndon White Jun 9 '16 at 3:29
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I think you should, for documentation, keep everything that provides proof of your career achievement. One or two folders should be sufficient for most people. You never know when it would be useful to have that handy. It's just a piece of paper, and I would keep it where you keep official or semi-official documentation about your career. It's less space than a trophy, in any case.

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Some labs and teams hang the certificates somewhere visible. The goal being to show that the lab/team actually care about their members' achievements, and possibly also to show them off to passers-by. Ask your lab/team head if this is the case. Keep a scanned copy should you need to show it later on.

  • My supervisor did scan it and send it round to the whole lab (and I think a few other interested parties) – Lyndon White Apr 14 '16 at 9:15
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You can keep it. It will be a great help once you graduate, it is a good asset when finding a job(office based job). Certificates are like credentials if you opt to land a job in a company.

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    Have you ever applied to an office job that asked for a paper copy of awards you have won? – ff524 Apr 14 '16 at 6:11
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    yes, here in ph – Freak Apr 14 '16 at 6:24
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    @ff524 very common throughout all of Asia actually. I've been asked to produce the actual degrees all the way back to high school here in Japan. – virmaior Apr 14 '16 at 10:13
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    well, they also asked for copies of every single award and I had to sheepishly mention 1 was for only 1万 – virmaior Apr 14 '16 at 10:48
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    @ff524: In some places such as Germany, it is customary to send any certificates that could confirm any of your skills along with the initial application - at least the rule of thumb I was taught back at school was that no matter whether it's a degree or a single award, anything that looks good should be added. While things are switching away from paper-based applications towards electronic ones (presumeably much faster for some areas of business than for others), no-one "asks" for a copy/scan, the applicant is expected to provide it right away when applying. – O. R. Mapper Apr 14 '16 at 22:19
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Note: this is for award certificates in general, not just the "Best Student paper" mentioned in the question. These mainly apply for more prestigious awards, like Nobel Prizes or the equivalent for your field.

  1. As O.R. Mapper mentioned in a comment, the first thing you should do is take a digital scan so you can archive the certificate and have a backup if necessary. Obviously the original is more important, but if something goes wrong, you'll still have proof that you owned it.
  2. Some academics as well as some professionals in more academic professions like doctors and engineers tend to have a wall or other dedicated house location to hang framed certificates and degrees they acquired.
  3. One thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is that some employers like to see proof of achievements you mention in your CV. So in that respect, assuming you're planning on pursuing a career in your chosen profession, having the original certificate allows you to make a copy so you can show it to any employees that want to see it.
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    If I went into an academics office and saw a framed "Best Student Paper" certificate on the wall, I'd be at risk of giggling. Framing a degree is different than framing an award for a conference paper. I've never once heard anyone ask for evidence. – Benjamin Mako Hill Apr 17 '16 at 6:53
  • @BenjaminMakoHill I was talking about award certificates in general, not just for this one. I agree that framing an award for "Best student paper" is a bit lame, but if it was for a major industry or field award like a Nobel prize, a Turing award, a Fields medal or any other of the meaningful awards, it's definitely worth displaying prominently in your office. – Nzall Apr 17 '16 at 13:47
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If you intend to pursue a career in academia, that certificate could be used by the educational institution as a supporting document for your ranking and promotion, for your merit awards, or for the school's accreditation (proof that its employees are well-qualified).

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    "Surely they can look it up online." Links do die (URLs change, and sometimes online content vanishes). – Joel Reyes Noche Apr 14 '16 at 5:40
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    I think your comment should be added to the OP, not your own answer :) – phresnel Apr 14 '16 at 8:14

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