Every few months, my Twitter timeline fills with complaints about academic conferences from graduate students and early career scholars. Why, they ask, do I have to pay X hundred dollars/pounds/euros to attend the main annual meeting of my discipline’s learned society? Why is always in an expensive city? I end up giving a 15 minute paper to 12 people, who may, or may not, be interested. Couldn’t the organizers provide more subsidies, choose cheaper locations or cut the frills?
This is a genuine problem. We are going through a trough in the academic labour market. We may be seeing a structural change towards longer periods of precarious and poorly paid employment for many people seeking to enter the profession. Individuals find it harder to cover conference costs – and departments or research groups have fewer resources to support them. It is not hard to see why there is a sense of grievance. On the other hand, it is not so easy to see what can be done….