Conference Double Dipping: How Germ Free is Your Paper?

Since it had become suggested reading for our first year graduate students in their introduction to methods course, I finally compelled myself to read over the April edition of PS: Political Science and its symposium on duplicate paper presentations at conferences.  That is, whether it is acceptable for an identical paper to be presented at different conferences.  My exposure to conferences is limited compared to the  more lengthy CVs and experiences of the senior members of the profession.  Despite this limitation, my exposure to repeat submissions and presentations has occurred on more than one occasion.  When asking graduate students at his institution, Dometrius reports in his introductory note:

When raising the same topic with graduate students, however, the modal reply was a blank stare—a lack of comprehension that presenting the same paper as many times as you wished would be viewed by anyone as an unusual or questionable practice.

This observation seems to be a shocking predisposition (to me at least) as presenting identical work, demanding the attention of people (with a high probability of seeing the same panelists, discussants, or audience members in the subsequent presentation) to hear the same research without substantial changes puts strains on the time and resources of individuals and, at more selective conferences where presentation space is rare, constrains other researchers from presenting (Sigelman (2008) argues that the marginal utility of round one reviews is greater than what is gained in the same slot by a second round of reviewers, decreasing the overall gain from that conference slot). 

Additionally, graduate students may have encountered academic norms and official policies against submission of the same paper twice in undergraduate or graduate course work.  This norm against double submissions, from all that I have heard and read, exists for political science journals as well where duplicate journal submissions can lead to automatic rejection and subsequent, identical journal submissions (without revisions suggested in the first roun) does not fare well with a small pool of potential reviewers who are unlikely to take kind to the lack of revisions suggested in their first rejection letter.  Consequently, based on other practices and demands in the discipline, I would venture that the innate bias would be against such practices, not a default in favor of it. 

This is not to be construed as my own personal bias as the Cooper (2008) piece provides some rational, persuasive arguments of why mutliple presentations of the same article may be of use.  Additionally, other authors suggest that departmental constraints and incentives are more likely to shape the behavior of submissions as teaching loads and tenure requirements are very real inducements when considering what to submit.  More so, the above paragraph is attempting to suggest why there would be pre-existing inertia against such a practice and fresh members of community (read: incoming graduate students) would interpret such disciplinary norm as a warrant against double submission/presentation of identical papers as opposed to favoring such a practice. 

Regardless, there are  several pieces in the discussion that create a cohesive exchange of ideas.

Michael A. Allen

About Michael A. Allen

Michael is an Assistant Professor in Political Science at Boise State University with a focus in International Relations, Comparative Politics, and Methodology (quantitative and formal). His work includes issues related to military basing abroad, asymmetric relations, cooperation, and conflict. He received his Ph.D from Binghamton University in 2011.

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