Authors: Albachiara Boffelli and Alexandra Lagorio
Conferences are one of the main events in the life of a researcher (and also one of the most useful and entertaining). They have a twofold objective: to create a moment of sharing one’s research activity with the scientific community of which one is part and to increase one’s network. Both of these things are fundamental in doing research.
Conferences allow you to get immediate feedback from other researchers (if you are lucky even from top scholars) both during the peer review process (if present) and when presenting your paper. Being able to present part of your research and attend presentations by others also allows you to get in touch with other researchers working on the same topics. Increasing your network is very important both to extend the limits of your research and to be able to collaborate with other research groups on relevant research projects. Getting to know researchers from other countries also allows you to find a foreign university to do a visiting period abroad and to meet possible partners to form consortia with which to present research projects to funding bodies.
Last but not least, conferences also often offer an opportunity to get to know places and cultures in the world that we would probably never know otherwise! Coming face to face with people who do our work and come from all over the world is always a unique experience of personal enrichment.
That said, we report the main conferences we usually attend (in a “normal” year)!
Alexandra: In these seven years of work as a researcher and PhD candidate, I have attended an average of three conferences per year (two international and one national). There are three main conference networks in which I participate:
- IFAC conferences: The International Federation of Automatic Control is a multinational federation concerned with automatic control and its representation in the fields of engineering, science and the impact of control technology on society. IFAC organises a lot of events during the year (you can find the full list on their website), I usually attend these conferences, each of which takes place every three years and where there are always special sessions dedicated to logistics:
- IFAC World Congress: there are 2000-3000 participants on average. Keynote speeches are often one of the strengths of the conference. Instead, the many parallel sessions allow you to meet in small groups around particular topics.
- Information Control Problems in Manufacturing (INCOM): smaller conference strongly focused on manufacturing and technology. With the research group I am part of (CELS), we organised the 2018 edition in Bergamo (but I will talk about this in another post!).
- Manufacturing Modelling, Management and Control (MIM): it’s the smallest of the three conferences of the IFAC circuit in which I participate and also the one to which I am most attached. It was, in fact, the first international conference I attended (in Troyes in 2016) and even the only conference in which one of my papers made it to the finals as the best article! It is strongly focused on the manufacturing system and logistics.
- Information Systems, Logistics and Supply Chain (ILS) conference: medium-size conference (200-300 participants) is the conference that allowed me to meet more researchers. The main topic is logistics, so it is easy to find researchers with the same interests (and also the small number of participants helps) and it is also easier to trigger discussions and debates after paper presentations. It happens once every two years.
- Summer School “Francesco Turco”: it is the main national conference of the Italian Association of Industrial Plant Teachers. It is a significant moment to get to know the other Italian researchers who research the field of Industrial Engineering. Over the years, I have met a lot of people, close friendships that have gone beyond work, and I fully understand why they say science “community”. The sense of belonging and sharing are two essential things to do research.
Apart from these “fixed appointments” there are other conferences that I go to from time to time if the topics are interesting (and if there are the funds to finance participation!). These include the conferences of the NECTAR group and the doctoral workshop of the European Logistics Association (ELA) which is a closed number (usually for 12/14 PhD students who have passed a selection process) but which has been very useful to me for my doctoral research.
Albachiara: I still remember my first international conference in 2016, I was not even a PhD student back then and I remember to have felt disoriented and completely out of place. But now, after four years, I am conference-addicted! I simply love going to conferences, meeting new people and old friends. Moreover, I always come back from conferences with a bunch of new research ideas, that I usually don’t have time to bring forward. I always tell the head of my research group that it is dangerous to send me to conferences because I usually come back with a lot more work to do. Anyway, these are the conferences I usually attend every year:
- EurOMA conferences: EurOMA (European Operations Management Association) is an international network of academics and practitioners who have a common interest in the continuing development of Operations Management. Every year, EurOMA organizes the main event, the EurOMA Annual Conference, and some thematic Forums. I often attended the EurOMA Sustainable Operations and Supply Chains Forum (for friends “Sustainability Forum”), given my interest in the topic of sustainability. While the Annual Conference is attended by the whole EurOMA community (500-600 people), the Sustainability Forum is attended by a smaller network of sustainability-addicted people (100-200 people), and I’m proud to say that I’m one of them. Both the conferences are great to build a network, especially the main one, which every year organizes many young scholars addressed workshops (the doctoral seminar, the young scholars workshop, the journal publishing workshop and the EurOMA & IJOPM developmental ideas papers workshop). Moreover, in 2020, the association created the EurOMA Young Scholar Networking Grant to fund groups of young researchers willing to start new collaborations. Finally, every two years, the EurOMA organizes a Summer School on relevant and current topics in the field of Operations Management.
- DSI conferences: DSI (Decision Sciences Institute) is a professional organization of academicians and practitioners interested in the application of quantitative and behavioural methods to the problems of society. Besides the central association (DSI), many other regional associations exist and organize local conferences. Of course, I belong to the European DSI (EDSI) community; therefore, I attend the EDSI Annual Conference (attended by 100-200 people) every year. Moreover, since last year, I started to attend the conference of the central association, the DSI Annual Conference (the one you have read recently about in our social media), where about 1000 people usually attend. The community at DSI and EDSI conferences is great, very friendly and ready to help young scholars in becoming academic leaders. Both the conferences organize many professional development workshops, doctoral symposia, and awards excellent results achieved by PhD students (with the best student presentation, the best doctoral paper and the best dissertation awards).
- AiIG conference: it is the annual conference of AiIG (the Italian association of management engineering). It is a common appointment that everyone in the management engineering field waits for at the beginning of the Fall. In this conference, the feeling is the one of a gathering among old friends. After some years, one starts knowing everyone and even feeling a sense of excitement in meeting again. There are some people, that now I consider friends, that I meet only during this annual event. Moreover, this is the perfect occasion for PhD students and young scholars to present their research and let themselves being recognized in the same Italian community that, some years later, will be judging them for tenured positions. To support PhD students, the association has traditionally always organized a Summer School yearly in Brixen (Bressanone) and, starting from 2017, the summer school has started to be organized by local teams and to change location every year with a three-year-based program. Recently, the association has started many initiatives addressed to PhD students and young scholars, such as the grant for young scholars and the sharing of PhD courses across universities.
This closes the overview of the main conferences that you can expect Young Scholars to talk about, but others might add from time to time. Of course, we are looking forward to hearing from our readers their suggestions for interesting conferences!