May 24, 2021, by Postgraduate Placements Nottingham

Attending an online conference

In this week’s blog Jessica Lovett shares her experience of attending an online conference thanks to support from the Researcher Academy‘s Online Conference Fund (OCF).

~ Jessica Lovett

I was recently fortunate enough to attend the Association of Nationalities World Convention with the help of the Researcher Academy’s Online Conference Fund. Though I’d been to smaller conferences before, this is the first large conference I’d presented at. The format was quite serious in that we were required to circulate a six to ten thousand word written paper in advance, and each panel included a discussant—usually a professor with many years experience in the field—whose job it was to provide feedback and critique the papers.

My slot to present was the very last slot, in UK time this meant 8pm on Saturday, so I had plenty of time to feel nervous. The penultimate session was the prize giving which took place on zoom. To my surprise I won a graduate paper prize in the Russia/Caucasus section for my paper on demographic change in the Soviet Union! I was thrilled and bumbled through a few thankyous. In the virtual reception afterwards, people were very kind and encouraged me to develop my paper into an article for the Association for the Study of Nationalities (ASN) journal Nationalities Papers. Previously I wouldn’t have considered I could do this, so it was great to chat to people about how publishing works.

Since the prize giving though my nerves had only increased. I had won a prize for the written paper, but I still had to actually present it! What if it didn’t live up to expectations? Fortunately, I needn’t have worried. There were a few people attending my panel, entitled ‘Authoritarian Governance in Soviet and Post-Soviet States’, but not a large audience. Our discussant, Professor Lawrence Markowitz provided some great feedback about how I might reframe the paper and the panel went by very quickly.

“I’ve been contacted my several people since the conference to discuss collaborating on panels and research in the future.”

The conference has been so useful for my development as a researcher. Not only do I now have the basis of a journal article to work on, I’ve also been contacted my several people since the conference to discuss collaborating on panels and research in the future. People often criticise online conferences, but given this one would have been held in America it’s unlikely I’d have been able to go if it had been in person due to the cost. I thought that four days on zoom might be quite fatiguing, but the quality of the papers so high I found it was easy to stay engaged, and the addition of discussants gave a particularly rich quality to the discussions. What worked particularly well about this conference was the additional sessions which broke up the day. These included a virtual reception with breakout rooms, a talk on getting involved with the ASN, and a session for graduate students on how to get published. Unlike some online formats where informal chat can be lost, I found ASN to be very friendly and welcoming. I’d highly recommend anyone considering an online conference to go for it!

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