While we’re on the subject of conference etiquette, I was wondering whether there is a lead time in terms of declining to attend a Conference after they give you a favorable acceptance letter based on the abstract you submitted? Or is this NOT an option at all and considered academic suicide?Okey-doke. I'm going to give my take on this, but with the usual "your mileage may vary" caveat, and a request for my readers to chime in.
The short answer is: Try not to do this. The longer answer is: it varies. Here are some of the variables (and please note that these are based with my experience with U.S. conferences; other countries may have other unspoken rules):
- If you have a serious medical situation, then people will understand. Or at least they should. Explain the situation, and be profuse with your apologies. If the conference rules allow, and you know a willing person, offer to provide a proxy to read your paper for you.
- Some conferences have rules that specifically state that if you bow out after the program committee accepts you, you are barred from presenting for the next X number of meetings of that conference. Check that, and factor it into your decision.
- If you bow out, it may not be "professional suicide," but you could get a reputation as someone who shouldn't be counted on (unless, of course, #1 applies), and you'll have to work to rebuild that reputation.
- If your reasons are that you can't prove the thing you said you'd prove in your abstract, then write the paper that you can write. You won't be the first person to begin a talk by saying "My title states that I'd be talking about X. However, in the course of my research..." But if you do this, give the panel organizer & chair a heads-up (and an alternate title, if necessary) well in advance, so they don't look foolish.