‘When You Get What You Want, But Not What You Need’: The Motivations, Affordances and Shortcomings of Attending Academic/Scientific Conferences

Nicholas Rowe

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Conferences are generally felt to facilitate knowledge exchange and interactions between delegates, and to support formative higher education and continued professional education. However, the motivations and needs of conference delegates are sparsely researched and subjective in nature. This paper presents a mixed method analysis of the needs and motivations of the delegates of academic, scientific and professional (ASP) conferences. A series of 16 mixed method expert interviews were conducted with a randomly selected international sample of established academic faculty. The results were cross-referenced with the findings of a preceding pilot survey (n=37) that included student as well as established researchers. When examined together, the research shows that whilst ASP delegate needs and expectations seem to be met on a superficial level, delegates are divided as to the long-term worth and benefit of conferences, particularly when they consider how their activities and contributions were viewed and appreciated by others. Although the empirical findings are representative of the participants‟ perceptions of conferences, they offer an advancement on the opinion-based literature on conference motivations. Importantly, this research helps to explain why delegates hold mixed perceptions of conferences, and identifies key areas where added value is needed to meet contemporary delegate need.


Conferences; Motivations; Affordances; Value; Scientific communication

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Rowe, N. (2018). „When you get what you want, but not what you need‟: The motivations, affordances and shortcomings of attending academic/scientific conferences. International Journal of Research in Education and Science (IJRES), 4(2), 714-729. DOI:10.21890/ijres.438394


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