14 June 2022

End abstract sponsorship for the Neuroscience meeting

Logo for Neuroscience 2022 meeting
Tomorrow is the deadline to submit abstracts for the Neuroscience meeting (the biggest academic meeting in the world).

This meeting does something that I have never seen at any other meeting. Every presentation and poster needs a society member to “sponsor” the abstract. And a member can only sponsor one scientific and one “metascience” presentation.

“So just become a member.” Not that easy, because membership also requires you to be sponsored by two active existing members. So if you are in a smaller campus, there may be no existing member who can sponsor you.

If you are in a lab with three society members but want to present four posters, you’re stuck.

The problem is so obvious that the Society’s Twitter account has taken to trying to help people rustle up a member to sponsor abstracts by retweeting requests. Like this.

Desperate last minute request from a @UniLeiden postdoc! Would anybody mind sharing their @SfNtweets membership ID for me to be able to use as a sponsor? Much appreciated 🙃

Or this or this. Not to mention this and this.

This is a failure on a couple of levels. First, it’s a stressful waste of time for people who want to present at the meeting. Second, it’s clear that people are willing to sponsor presentations they had nothing to do with.

I suspect that this policy could also cause problems with around representation, which occur pretty much any time you create an obstacle that has anything to do with money.

And it shouldn’t be up to a social media account to try to fix a conference admission problem.

I can see three possible reasons for this policy – two okay and one bad.
  1. Keeps out cranks, kooks, and quacks who want to present crackpot ideas. I think there are better ways of achieving this.
  2. Limits the size of the meeting. Sorry, but that ship has sailed.
  3. Drives membership. This is the bad reason. Look, either make membership worth having or increase the registration fee for non-members to compensate for lost revenue.

The meeting has done this for a long time. I ran into the problem the very first time I submitted an abstract. And that was, as they say, a while ago now. It feels like the kind of policy that sticks around because “We’ve always done it this way” instead of serving any valuable purpose.

It is time for the Society to publicly say why they limit submissions this way, or get rid of the policy altogether.

External links

Neuroscience call for abstracts

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