Ethical Issues in Conference Presentations - From Attending to Presenting at Conferences - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Ethical Issues in Conference Presentations
From Attending to Presenting at Conferences
Conference Proposals and Article Types

Presenters at professional conferences need to make ethical decisions that show respect for the time, money, and effort of fellow professionals. To illustrate, a doctoral candidate traveled to a national conference with the goal of attending sessions related to her dissertation. However, when she arrived at the first session, the presenter began by asking everyone to arrange their chairs in a circle. He then indicated that he had left the university (and grant project) and had not completed the research that was described in the conference program. He then said, “I’m sure that all of you have expertise on the subject, so let’s just brainstorm together for the next 55 minutes”. As you might predict, quite a few members of the group exited the session immediately. Several marched down to the conference headquarters table to fill out an evaluation form or register their complaints with the conference planners. Situations such as this one are inexcusable. The ethical decision would have been to cancel, well in advance of the publication of the conference program. It is unfair to professional colleagues to be completely unprepared to fulfill the promise of the session description but attend anyway, just to add a line to the curriculum vitae. Likewise, it is not ethical for a “big name” professor to include his/her name on many conference programs and multiple sessions that are conducted by graduate students. If a name is on the session, that person should be in attendance unless there is some sort of emergency. It is fraudulent to do otherwise. The conference planners have every right to expect that all persons listed as presenters are, indeed, acting in good faith with every intention of participating.

Ethical considerations also apply to the review of other scholars’ conference proposals. It is important to provide helpful critique rather than to get frustrated when a proposal is flawed. As a general guideline, reviewers should not put anything in writing that they would not say to that person if he or she were sitting there. Anonymous peer review is not a license to be rude or hostile. When writing reviews, be certain to mention what was done well as well as what needs to be improved. Strive to be helpful, remembering that you were not always this well-informed about how to write a proposal and no doubt committed some beginner’s mistakes yourself. Think about what you hope for when your work is reviewed: not only some general comments, but also remarks about the details. This lets you know that your work was reviewed in a thoughtful and well-balanced fashion, rather than given a cursory glance. Another mistake in reviewing is to presume that you need to agree wholeheartedly with the proposal in order to think it is worth sharing. This occurs when, for example, a qualitative researcher is more critical of quantitative research or vice versa. It might also occur when reviewers give a proposal a more positive evaluation, however flawed, because the proposers are from their native country or other group to which they belong. Reviewers need to bear in mind that quality criteria, rather than personal affiliations and professional biases, are the basis for assessment of conference proposals.