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An Expensive Barrier

For graduate students and postdocs, big annual conferences, and even smaller specialized meetings, can be a great place to learn more about their research area. But they're also a great place to network and meet faculty members who may be looking to hire new lab members.

But these conferences don't come cheap, Nature News says. If you factor in the cost of registration, travel, and lodgings, the average price tag can easily total more than $1,000. And academic institutions aren't always quick with reimbursements for travel and registration fees. 

"For younger academics — especially those who already face financial hardships — this waiting game is a deterrent to career advancement," Nature News says. Grad student and postdoc stipends are sometimes barely enough to cover rent and other everyday expenses. Putting the price tag of conference attendance on top of that "is clearly a barrier for early-career researchers," it adds. 

One solution if you're an early-career researcher is to talk to your advisor or department head about getting your expenses covered ahead of time, Nature News says. But this isn't really a long-term solution. Long-term solutions will require systemic changes at a larger scale.

Some academic institutions have already taken steps to make it easier for young researchers to attend conferences, Nature News reports. For example, Brown University allows graduate students to submit airfare, hotel, and conference registration expenses for reimbursement before the event actually happens. Institutions in the University of California system provide travel-specific credit cards for conference expenses to reduce out-of-pocket costs. "While these might seem like small steps, they can make a huge difference. And small, incremental changes might be easier for university administrators to swallow when you and your peers call for action," Nature News says.

Helping young academics to attend conferences and events is critical for their careers and it's the right thing to do, the article adds.