The simple definition of conference proceedings goes something like this: A collection of academic papers presented at a professional association meeting or conference. However, many of the words, like meeting and conference, which make up that definition are interchangeable with other terms…and often are. If you’re not an academic or an engineer, you will benefit from the following expanded explanation.
For starters the term conference can also be exchanged with the following terms:
- Confabulation (yes, confabulation — I didn’t imagine it)
The term proceedings can also be exchanged with the following terms:
- Abstracts (a brief paper — a paragraph up to 1 page)
- Extended Abstracts (2-5 pages)
And the term association can be exchanged with any organization, like: society, agency, research foundation, council, institute, corporation, etc.
While conferences can be focused on any academic subject, from Humanities and Social Studies to Natural and Applied sciences, they are often focused on a specific discipline. For example, one conference hosted by the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society will include 30 – 40 papers all focused tightly on, well…veterinary acupuncture. This focus provides a depth of coverage unlike any other scientific publication. In fact, one of the truly unique qualities of conference proceedings lies in the fact that they are made up of research papers from many individuals, which makes their character distinctly different from scientific books, textbooks or journals.
One conference proceedings title can include as few as 5-10 papers or as many as 2,000 papers. Some conferences are held each year, or every two years, three years, etc. Most proceedings publications are referred to as “monographs” (stand-alone), and others are part of a series. For example, the Materials Research Society Symposium Proceedings Series may have a symposium titled “Three-Dimensional Nano- and Microphotonics”, which is volume #1014 in the series.
They are relatively cost-effective sources for academic research since they are less expensive than their higher priced relatives, journals — and typically have more content than journals, albeit a little less prestigious. Conference proceedings often include new research breakthroughs, innovations, methodologies and best practices, particularly in the fields of science, engineering and technology. They provide a platform for researchers to identify potential collaborators, and can influence work in related disciplines. It is at these important national and international conferences that research findings are reported and debated for the first time – long before their formal publication in journals and textbooks.
Hopefully, the next time someone mentions conference proceedings you won’t have a blank stare on your face.