Thinking about conferences as places for thinking

Since I shall (with a fair following wind) be submitting my PhD thesis next year at the age of 60, I am immune to many of the pressures faced by senior academics and ECRs alike which Richard Ashcroft describes here. I’m not looking to pursue a career in the groves of academe and so I am lucky enough to follow my nose in terms of future research. But his description of the “conference-as-we-know-it” rings true. Perhaps our time is better spent sailing… or at the cricket!

Show and Tell

In this post, Richard Ashcroft reflects on the shortcomings of academic conferences. 


For a long time, I have been doing my work without going to conferences. Like going to bed early, this is perhaps why I do a lot of reflecting on (academic) life rather than participating in it. In the first half of my academic career I used to go to conferences a lot. But I now have very mixed feelings about them. Here I want to explore some of the reasons why I find conferences problematic.

Let me start by saying why I used to go to so many. In part this was because there was a time when I went to none at all. When I was a graduate student I was fortunate enough to be at a university which was considered a destination for the world’s academics, where famous names and rising stars would come on…

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