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May 17, 2012 / mmaideni

A science conference in perspective, anything new or just the old story?

Conference review being a summary of the proceedings is a platform for sharing information and therefore should be interesting to the reader as well. Sunny Bains outlines the reasons for writing a conference review.  Firstly, the review is to direct the reader to what is new in a particular field. Secondly, is to consolidate loosely linked trends of issues discussed during the conference. Thirdly, the writer has to fulfil an obligation of providing feedback to the donor or as part of normal duty to anchor the publicity for own organisation and when it is the requirement for editor to have it. Bains makes an observation that in reviewing the conference the journalists sometimes are biased towards interesting stories and end up adding their own thought. Bains offers a caution to journalists about conference review; that not all are worth the trouble of the review as they tend to be multidisciplinary and at the same time uncommon. Bains says that a good conference review must be interesting and useful to the reader.  In meeting this declaration he further outlines five tips that he thinks make a conference review both interesting and useful to the reader.  Following are what makes a good conference review:

• Conference review must as much as possible avoid including the organisers, the venue and how the discussions or plenary progressed unless it is destined for a magazine or an institutional website;

• The writer must not be wasteful with information but instead be precise, simple and interesting. This helps the reader to absorb easily. To simplify an otherwise complex issue for the readers/audience the review must make a summary of convincing projects in order to bring impact. Then also include any obvious support or opposing views demonstrated by the presentations to the selected for the review and of course other projects which were not part of the presentation for comparison purposes;


• Carry out a check on any sequential alignment of the presentations and probably take it to be the theme of the review. Then come up with details to become the discussion points.

• The writer is to decide to make special emphasis on the emerging issues and probably give justification of their growing importance. This could be issues that were not popular or of concern in the past but suddenly they become largely of interest.

• Finally Sunny Bains reveals to the writer that a good science conference review should reflect all that was discussed so that even those who did not attend are able to follow up on issues of interest.

Reading Sunny Bains tips on writing a good science conference review you realise that there is need to gauge the target audience medium of dissemination and a sifting of what to say. This gives me an idea of what a good conference review is all about. An example is given a of conference report which may include the background of the workshop which also incorporates the objectives. Also included are the issues during paper presentations and plenary session outcomes.  Finally, the recommendations or resolutions made. For networking and reference purposes list of participants and what role they had in the conference may also be provided. This information may be presented electronically, giving web address.

Having followed what Sunny Bains says I am convinced a good conference review is possible, what do you think?

To read what Sunny Bains wrote please follow this link



Leave a Comment
  1. muza2009 / May 23 2012 12:26 am

    A really good and useful post on writting a conference review. You could have broken the first paragraph into two at the sentence starting Bains makes an observation. Also im not sure what you mean when you say “that not all are worth the trouble of the review as they tend to be multidisciplinary and at the same time uncommon.” At the end in addition to describing an example it would have been useful to have links to what you consider to be good conference reviews.

    Its not an easy task writing a conference review, most journalist only attend the plenary and without subject knowledge are ill equiped to write a review or know what the emerging issues are or which parallel sessions to attend. However, when scientist write a review that can aslo be biased in favour of their research. Whatever the case its a challenge to be provide an unbiased, fair summary of the proceedings.

  2. alistairsisson / May 24 2012 9:02 am

    I really had no idea about what is involved in writing a conference review before reading this, so I’m pleased to say that your post has changed that. One thing I’m not clear on is whether the conference review is meant to be critical, or whether it is simply an overview. I suppose it can be either (?).

  3. thiarayoanita69 / May 24 2012 10:46 am

    I have never read a proper conference review actually. My friend once posted on her blog about a conference she went to. But it contains too many agricultural terminology, which I don’t understand at all. So I gave up after reading the first paragraph.. This gave me the impression that all conference reviews are (1) text heavy (2) targeted only at people coming from relevant backgrounds.

    Bains has addressed this point well by warning writers to be cautious, since not all readers share the same interest.

    Thanks to your post, I now have a clearer understanding of what a conference review is. Honestly, I am surprised that this type of writing could be engaging.

    @alistair, from the reading and what have been suggested by @mmaideni, I think the main goal of conference review is to inform audience of what has been happening in the meeting? (e.g. the main issue being discussed, the importance of the issue, what is being done at the moment)..

    NB: @mmaideni, the first bit that you mentioned about organizers. I think you have mixed it up. From my understanding, those stuffs (organizers, venues, etc) may be worth stating in a blog. But if it is to be published in a magazine/institutional website, these “personal experiences” should be ignored..

    And one more thing, the link you provided above isn’t working =/ i had a look on LMS, and this is the complete URL :


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