“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
When I go to a conference, I want to present my most recent relevant work. But often the deadline for abstract submission is months before the conference, so I need to decide which work is likely to be completed in time, and write a convincing abstract before all (sometimes any) results are available.
Take for example the next INQUA conference, the deadline for abstract submission, 9th January, is 6.5 months in advance of the conference.
I wondered if this lead time was typical, so I trawled through some conferences to find their lead times. I’ve looked for conferences in ecology and geology, avoiding the plague of predatory conferences by only listing those I know or found on the PAGES and Nature Ecology calendars. These gave a mix of 2018 and 2019 conferences. I stopped once I had 30 conferences. If the submission deadline was extended, I took the original date as I cannot tell if the deadlines will be extended for 2019 conferences.
The median lead time is 110 days, much shorter than for INQUA. Of course, I want to know why there is a 5.8 fold difference between the longest (Polar2018) and shortest (AQUA) lead time.
I have a few ideas, some of which are probably testable.
- Some of the conferences probably plan to extend the abstract submission deadline, so the published deadline is artificially early, whereas for others the deadline is fixed. As extensions are usually only by a week or two, this should explain only a little of the variance.
- I only looked for conferences in ecology or geology, so I suspect research field explains little of the variance. I predict that some faster moving fields, e.g. biomedicine, lead times should typically be short.
I wonder whether conference size is associated with lead times. Large conferences are obviously take more effort to organise, but on the other hand, have more resources. It is difficult to work out how large conferences are, but two of the largest conferences, the EGU and ESA have very different lead times (87 and 171 days, respectively). Small, relatively informal conferences should be the easiest to organise, and therefore short lead times.
I prefer short lead times. I am more likely to submit an abstract to a conference with a three month lead time than one with a six month delay.