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As someone who has attended loads of conferences and organized a few, my take is that the answer to both (1) and (2) is 'no'. But if you can't attend both, you should let the one you won't attend know as soon as possible, because the organizers need to fill your slot. But the longer it takes for you to withdraw, the ruder that withdrawal is, given that you know you'll be withdrawing.

A Voice

My thoughts are quite different from Michel's. I do not think that you should submit abstracts or papers to TWO conferences that occur at the same time. Just make a choice, and accept you may not get on either programme. It is not the end of the world.
People I know who have been involved in organizing big conferences say that these days 25 % of the papers accepted are withdrawn before the conference. That is an organizational nightmare! This is a relatively new phenomenon. There will and have always been people who have to pull out of a conference due to a genuine emergency. I have done it. But we should not make it a norm that pulling out of something like this is okay. Keep in mind people have spent their time refereeing your paper/abstract.

a philosopher

I'm not aware of discipline-wide norms in this area and would just recommend some common sense: treat others how you want to be treated, don't exploit them, etc. FWIW I've both attended and organized conferences. My impression is that people are flexible and understand how it goes, so long as you yourself are reasonable.

Another point: don't count your chickens before they hatch. The situations you describe are only a problem if you're accepted at both conferences, which may not be likely. So perhaps worry about it if it happens, in which case the specifics of the situation (timing, etc) will matter and be clear.


Here are my two cents.

1. No
2. Yes

Regarding #1: I don't think there's anything wrong with submitting to two concurrent conferences--especially if there's a reasonable chance that you won't get into either of them. I view submissions like applications. Just like applying to a school or a job does not constitute (or even imply) an agreement to attend/work there, neither does submitting to a conference mean you're agreeing to present.

Regarding #2: I agree with "a philosopher" above. Treat others how you want to be treated. Conference planning is a lot of work. If Conference A accepts your submission, they will (presumably) ask you to confirm whether you will be there. You have a responsibility to promptly reply either "yes" or "no." It would be wrong to say "yes" but secretly be planning to back out if Conference B (your preferred conference) accepts you. It would also be wrong to drag your feet and not give a prompt answer. So if Conference A accepts, you should either confirm or reject them promptly and keep your commitment if you confirm. (Of course, there are other circumstances where you could reasonably break your commitment, but an acceptance from an alternative conference is not one of them.)


I just realized I might have misunderstood question 2. Let me clarify. Suppose you're in the following situation. You submit to two conferences:

Conference A
Conference B (your top choice)

Conference A accepts your submission and now you're trying to decide what to do. Some of your options include:

i. Accept Conference A and withdraw from Conference B.
ii. Accept Conference A, but wait to hear back from Conference B and if Conference B accepts you, then withdraw from Conference A.
iii. Don't give a firm answer to Conference A until you hear back from Conference B.

I was suggesting that (i) was ok, but (ii) and (iii) were objectionable.

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