The Economic Cost of Attending Educational Conferences

Nicholas E. Rowe
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Conference attendance and presentation are ubiquitous practices across international academic, scientific and professional communities. However, their financial costs and implications have been little studied. Through an empirical analysis of a UK educational conference over three years (N=1,261), this paper examines the financial cost elements of fees, travel, accommodation and financial support that are common to international conference delegates. The findings show significant individual expenditures for both domestic and international delegates. When extrapolated to published global researcher populations, these costs indicate a multi-billion expenditure. However, this is balanced against issues of environmental impact that were raised in the study, and a reported climate of ‘lost conference research’ where conference presentations are not developed into accessible published work. The article concludes that in the face of such expenditures and negative impacts, concerted efforts are required to make conference attendance an objectively sustainable educational activity, especially in terms of fiscal and knowledge economies.


Conferences; Efficiency; Economic impact; Return on investment; Scientific communication

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