From the APA Science Student Council

Why It's Important For You To Present Your Data at Scientific Conferences

Discusses the importance of presenting data at scientific conferences

The Science Student Council is a group of nine graduate students who spend a couple of weekends a year with the Science staff, advising us on programs and activities that would benefit graduate students in psychological science. This month, and every month for the next year or so, the students will present useful information that other graduate students need to know! Visit the Science Student Council to learn more about the activities of the SSC.

Why It's Important For You To Present Your Data at Scientific Conferences
by Kelly Dunn 
 

As graduate students, we are often encouraged to present our research findings at regional and national conventions; however, the value of these presentations is not always explicitly clear. Listed below are the top 5 reasons why it is important for you to participate in conferences.

1. Contribute to and learn about the most recent advances in YOUR field
Conference presentations allow you to present your data during many stages of development, (e.g., preliminary findings, recently collected data, or data that is waiting to be published). This will allow you to present your most up-to-date findings and receive feedback from colleagues, which will help you when you ultimately write up your study. Additionally, you have the opportunity to attend numerous exciting talks and poster sessions while at the convention. As these presentations often represent the most cutting-edge research available, they can provide you with valuable information far earlier than if you had waited for the publication.

2. ADVOCATE FOR YOUR SCIENCE
Perhaps one of the most important benefits from conference presentations is the ability to advocate for your science. Representing your field of interest allows researchers in other disciplines, policy-makers, and the public to become aware of the innovative research being generated in your particular subfield. As scientists, it is important that we share our research findings with people outside our specific discipline to increase the visibility of our research and provide interested individuals with more information.

3. Learn how to talk about your data
Conferences provide a way to practice your presentation skills and can help you develop the expertise needed to discuss your research in a clear and meaningful way. Learning how to answer specific questions and present your data to a range of individuals (who may or may not be familiar with your field of research) will help you in other endeavors, including future conference presentations, masters or dissertation defenses, and classroom teaching.

4. Contribute to your overall research profile
When on the job market, graduate students often compete against other students for ideal jobs or post-doctoral positions. A history of conference presentations will show potential employers that you regularly disseminate your research finding to colleagues as well as keep up-to-date on the cutting-edge research of the field. Moreover, many conferences offer travel awards, which if won, can be added to your list of awards and honors. These lines on your vita may be the deciding factor between you and other potential job candidates.

5. Meet other researchers in your field and potential contacts for future positions
The presentations that you give and attend are likely to be frequented by researchers with similar interests, giving you the opportunity to discuss your research and learn valuable information from people working with similar techniques, populations, or statistics. Establishing contacts with other scientists will foster friendships with motivated researchers who can be resources for you at any stage of your career. An additional advantage of meeting researchers with common interests is that you may be able to create contacts for future employment or post-doctoral placements, allowing you to learn of available positions sooner than those who wait for advertisements to be posted. Furthermore, making yourself recognizable to future employers can increase your likelihood of being considered for a position.

In short, attending and presenting at conferences offers a myriad of opportunities to a young researcher. Consider attending the 2008 Boston APA Convention as a place to begin. Applications to present are due on December 3rd, 2007, and more specific information regarding applications is available at www.apa.org/convention.