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Journal of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry Official publication of Indian Society of Pedodontics and Preventive Dentistry
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Year : 2015  |  Volume : 33  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Dental conferences: An enigma

Dean, People's College of Dental Sciences, Bhopal - 462 037, Madhya Pradesh, India

Date of Web Publication9-Jan-2015

Correspondence Address:
N D Shashikiran
Dean, People's College of Dental Sciences, Bhopal - 462 037, Madhya Pradesh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0970-4388.148959

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How to cite this article:
Shashikiran N D. Dental conferences: An enigma. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent 2015;33:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Shashikiran N D. Dental conferences: An enigma. J Indian Soc Pedod Prev Dent [serial online] 2015 [cited 2022 Jan 23];33:1-2. Available from: https://www.jisppd.com/text.asp?2015/33/1/1/148959

Conferences organized by dental societies and related organizations are a dominant feature of the academic, professional, and social life of all health-related disciplines. These events come in all sizes, from relatively small, local gatherings, workshops, and symposia to large international mega-congresses that mobilize tens of thousands of clinicians, researchers, exhibitors, and staff to build small-sized towns for a few days. Do conferences serve any purpose?

People attend conferences for various reasons: to update knowledge, for accreditation points, to improve the skills of paper/poster presentation, to visit the place, or to meet friends. In theory, these meetings aim to disseminate and advance research, train, educate, and set evidence-based policy.

The availability of a plethora of conferences promotes a mode of scientific citizenship in which a bulk production of abstracts, with no or superficial peer review, leads to mediocre curriculum vita building. Then, we ask: Who benefits more from presenting in conferences? Is the exposure more beneficial to already-visible scholars or to less-known and newcomer authors? The answer is not obvious. One supposition might be that conferences are particularly important for less-known authors (and less important for better-known scholars) as a means to advertise their work. A countervailing supposition might be that already-visible scholars benefit by attracting large audiences within the conference, while less-known authors and their presentations less-attended and therefore less effective. In other words, conferences could plausibly either mitigate or exacerbate a-famous-get-famous effect.

When you attend a conference related to your area of expertise, you will get opportunities to communicate with nationally known leaders of your professional colleagues, you get recognized, thereby reputation. Although these are worthy goals, there is virtually no evidence supporting the utility of most conferences.

Problems start with the travel needed to attend a conference. The fuel waste caused by participants traveling to various destinations across the country and around the globe is immense, corresponding to an estimated environmental burden of more than 10,000 tons of carbon per each midsized international conference.

Also the practical applicability of what is learnt in conferences in day to day practice and the utility of pre-conference courses is questionable. The cost-effectiveness of these conferences is not satisfying in terms of: registration fees, gifts received, accommodation, guest lectures, and food. The various reasons for dissatisfaction could be on basis whether the guest lectures are understandable, provision of accommodations, and gala banquets.

Conferences are blamed for promulgating poor science by selecting, on the basis of several-hundred-word abstracts, research that is often not published after more extensive peer review. The prevalence of false research findings and their adoption into mainstream practice carries heavy consequences. In our era of soaring health care costs, we cannot afford to implement unnecessary and costly interventions in the absence of sound evidence.

Based on experience from attending some commercially driven conferences, I conclude that there is a very real danger that the contents of meetings organized without the guidance of an independent dental or scientific organization may be markedly influenced by economic interests. These would include the expectations of sponsors and exhibitors to create an environment favorable to supporting their products and services.

In the electronic age in which information can be shared around the world instantly, the contribution of large conferences to the dissemination and advancement of science is unclear. Education and training can also happen outside of such venues. A portion of the resources spent on congresses and their accompanying extravaganzas could be better spent in developing more efficient educational modes.

Are dental congresses dinosaurs doomed to become extinct? The future will tell. Conferences will disappear if dentist stop paying attention to them, if they do not give them value, and if they do not attend them; and, of course, if funders do not fund them. One option is to let evolution and history run its course. However, many interests favor the maintenance of professional meetings that promote the massive so vietization of dental disciplines. Thus, natural selection may not be able to operate effectively.


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