Concerns about funding for conferences and workshops have been a ongoing theme in my conversations with other graduate students. This is especially the case in the UK where doctoral students do not get as much funding as in the US. So what is the way forward?
Well firstly, funding concerns should not be a deterrent for students to attend conferences and workshops. First year students are especially hesitant to travel because they hardly have material to present. However, the first year is the best time to sample different events, get exposure to new ideas, meet potential collaborators and broaden the knowledge-base.
Moreover, there are many avenues for funding than one should be aware of. The following are some things to keep in mind:
- Scholarships: many PhD scholarships include a travel allowance.
- Many events have special funds for young researchers so if you inform the event organizer that your trip is dependent on financial support, you might not have to pay the full amount.
- Certain events sponsored by the same organization as the student’s sponsor will let the student in on discounted rates.
- Most departments have a travel allowance for the whole year or the whole PhD.
- There might be funds specific to your research group which may be used for certain conferences.
- If the department funds don’t work out, it is worth checking the faculty funds.
- The university may have some specific funds for country specific travel schemes. There is no harm in asking the graduate office.
- Ask your supervisor. There is a reason that your supervisor with his years of experience is your supervisor! He may direct you to a channel which you did not think of. He might have money from his own research project. In any case, it is good to keep him or her in the loop for any future plans.
- Publish or present! The best justification to get travel funds is to publish or present in a good conference. That is extra motivation for your work! Traveling is easier to justify if one is presenting rather than just attending.
Remain informed and keep your receipts. Just like any financial office, the university may ask you to fill up various forms and attach receipts. Therefore it is useful to know the process.