Last week I had the privilege of attending and presenting at two conferences in Brisbane, the capital of my home state of Queensland, Australia. The 20th conference for the International Council on Alcohol, Drugs and Traffic Safety was followed by the Road Safety, Research, Policing and Education Conference 2013. In case you had not previously considered attending conferences, for reasons ranging from not enough time to no interest, I thought I would share my own top-ten reasons for attending conferences in the hope of inspiring injury prevention researchers and professionals alike to capitalise on these opportunities whenever possible.
First, you are exposed to the latest research. A fundamental part of this is the opportunity to interact with the researcher themselves, either in person during the conference and/or afterwards via email. This affords you a wonderful interactive opportunity, rather than simply rely on information summarised in peer-reviewed literature.
Second, keynote speakers – leaders in their field – align their presentations with the conference theme, sharing their experience and insights whilst inspiring future research. Again, you are able to interact with these keynote speakers, either in person during the conference and/or afterwards via email. Another wonderful interactive opportunity.
Third, morning/afternoon tea, lunch breaks and conference dinners provide additional opportunities to network with existing collaborators, and to meet other researchers, practitioners and policy-makers from around the world.
Fourth, a vital part of being an injury prevention professional is mentoring the next generation – potential higher degree students frequently seek out and establish relationships with supervisors in the supportive conference environment.
Fifth, conferences frequently have the option to publish a peer-reviewed paper, either in conference proceedings or in an affiliated journal. In an era of information sharing, accountability, and limited research funds, publications are vital.
Sixth, successes can be celebrated amongst a supportive network of peers. Conferences frequently offer recognition for ‘best paper’, in addition to other conference-specific prizes such as meritorious service, outstanding young researcher, etc. We have many unsung injury prevention heroes. What a great way to recognise our efforts.
Seventh, conferences usually offer exhibition space to interested parties, ranging from research centres advertising education courses to companies marketing injury prevention devices. A unique opportunity to interact with and see first-hand!
Number eight: future conferences with a similar theme are often advertised. Chatting with colleagues and peers will also help you to realise joint projects that could be conducted then presented at these conferences.
Number nine: you will be immersed in a culture other than your own if you engage in an international conference. Not only will this be a wonderful adventure personally, it will also open your eyes to the importance of translating research findings into the international community.
Finally, if you are able to, I recommend having your family travel with you and taking an extra day or two to enjoy the local sites. The world has opened up to my children, and in an era of global issues requiring global efforts, this has never been more important.
I am sure there are many other reasons to attend conferences, such as the unique learning opportunity afforded by being on a conference organising committee, but here is my top ten. I would love to hear if you have other reasons for attending.