A scientific conference is a meeting of scientists from a certain field of research. Its aim is the sharing of knowledge about recent developments among participants, through presenting new data and findings, and discussing them critically. An additional benefit is the opportunity of socializing with colleagues. Regular participation in conferences is considered vital for a career scientist and being a guest speaker invited to meetings is an important recognition.
A considerable advantage of presenting new data in a conference instead of publishing an article is that feedback and critical evaluation can be provided immediately. Most conferences lead to the publication of conference proceedings, listing the abstracts (summaries) of the research projects that have been presented. In some cases, conferences may result in the publication of special issues, in which original documents complete the conference theme.
Nevertheless, all relevant findings are subsequently published in paper form and subjected to formal review and revision in journal articles, as the conference proceedings may be preliminary. The media can often erroneously report scientific conclusions based on conference proceedings due to a nonchalance in reviewing what scientists say.
Researchers present their results mainly in two ways – a speech of about 10-25 minutes followed by 2-5 minutes of questions from the audience and discussion. Keynote speakers can hold speeches for up to 45 minutes followed by 15 minutes of discussion, usually one per act. Today, PowerPoint is the standard for presentations.
Potential participants send their suggestions for contributions several weeks or even months before. The best speeches are then selected by the organizing committee.