How much is a conference contribution worth?

I’m reviewing conference submissions right now for the Scandinavian Conference on Health Informatics 2016 (deadline today… I know…), and I thought I’d take the opportunity to reflect on a very special topic that haunts Health Informatics researchers. If you’re a researcher in Computer Science or Information Systems research – writing conference papers is very often the main channel for publishing your work. There is a rigorous review process and acceptance to the main conferences can be quite challenging. In medical research, however, writing a contribution to a conference is also always in the form of abstracts. Peer reviewed too, but often one page or less of text. After you’ve presented at the conference (or in parallel) you submit your full paper to a scientific journal – and that’s where you get your credit from.

Now, health informatics (or medical informatics if you prefer that term) is a very interdisciplinary field bringing work practices and traditions from many areas of research, including computer science, social sciences and medicine. When it comes to conferences in medical informatics, most use a computer science approach, i.e. we submit full papers that undergo proper peer review (hence my work today). What’s the problem? you might think. Well, the problem occurs when applying for funding, job positions or similar when your work is reviewed by researchers from the medical field. When they see “in conference proceeding” they automatically think “abstract” – which rapidly reduces your research productivity massively. The same goes for bibliometric measures that rarely takes conference contributions into account. And if you happen to work at a purely medical university, such as Karolinska Institutet, you have your work cut out for you in convincing review boards that your conference papers count for more than just abstracts. I’m curious to know whether other researchers in interdisciplinary fields have similar problems… please leave a comment if you have experiences to share!

Soon I will be applying to become an associate professor here at KI – and I hope that the interdisciplinary researchers before me have paved the way for my application. Wish me luck!

[post 7 in the #blogg100 challenge]

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