The Dual Role of Conference Papers in Biomedical Research
BRIAN WU, MD, PhD
In What are Conference Proceedings? the University of Notre Dame, defines this genre as the papers and abstracts that stem from the conferences of professional societies and that often represent the preliminary findings of recent scientific study. Conference proceedings have a unique relationship with laboratories and other research institutions, because the genre represents an important source of both output from and input to these organizations.
Conferences and Laboratory Output
Conferences are an important part of the output of many laboratories and other research institutions. In fact, much of their research and intellectual production is first presented to the public in the form of conference papers or posters. Therefore, they are vital to the public image of the institution. Conferences can lead to significant recognition for both participating institutions and specific scientists, and as a result giving a keynote speech at an important conference — or serving on its board — has become extremely desirable in the academic world.
Presentations are indeed vital to spreading scientific knowledge and often represent the last informal discussion of this knowledge before it is published. This gives other scientists the opportunity to ask questions, discuss the material, and pose challenges.
Conferences as a Source of Input
As part of the dual role that conferences play in the life of a laboratory, they also represent an important source of input for research institutions. In the article Analyzing the Scientific Conference: A Methodological Overview of a Multimodal Genre, the authors note that conferences play a vital part in the life of the research community. That’s because conferences (and the literature stemming from them) offer a means by which new discoveries can be shared and information conveyed between researchers.
Conferences also provide an opportunity for researchers from various institutions to communicate in person — and introduce or market new procedures, methods, and products. The contacts that scientists make during conferences can also lead to funding, because government and other funding bodies are often in attendance at these conferences. Most importantly, however, conferences are a tool to facilitate greater communication and collaboration between scientists from all over the world.
Thus, to truly understand the importance of conference papers in the life of research laboratories, it is vital to first understand the dual role that they play. They function both as a form of output for a laboratory that highlights the efforts of a given institution and as a form of input that facilitates greater communication and collaboration between researchers working all over the world.
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