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Attending International Conferences: A guide for the researchers based in the LIC/LMIC

By Dr. Farooq Azam Rathore | July 2, 2024  | Career tips Researcher Experience Conferences

As a Pakistani physician and researcher who has had the privilege of attending numerous national and international conferences in the last 15 years – often via a scholarship or travel grants, I am often approached by young residents, researchers, and fellow faculty members with a familiar question: How can we, as professionals from a region that faces travel barriers, participate in international conferences?

I will be honest; it is not a straightforward path, and you will likely face rejections and disappointments at the start. However, it is definitely achievable! Here is my roadmap for colleagues from Lower-income countries and Lower-middle-income countries (LIC/LMIC) who aspire to share their knowledge and research on a global stage. Although, I am writing this a physician based in a LMIC, the principles are equally applicable to any field and any LMIC.

 

  1. Contribute to the Global Knowledge Pool:

The first step towards gaining recognition and invitations to international conferences is to contribute significantly to the global knowledge pool. Some suggestions are as follows

  • Conduct original research: Focus on under-explored topics that are relevant to your field and region. Your unique perspective can offer valuable insights to the international medical community who are nowadays eager to learn about different perspectives around the globe.
  • Document your unique experience: Your clinical encounters and observations may hold valuable lessons for others facing similar challenges. Do not underestimate the power of your personal narratives. Documenting your rich, on-the-ground experiences can offer invaluable insights to the global community.
  • Share your ideas: As a professional based in an LIC/LMIC It is important to overcome any fear of sharing ideas and experiences. Remember, if you never share, you will never be heard or acknowledged. Start by submitting abstracts to national and international conferences. Persistence is key here. You may not succeed immediately, but each submission improves your skills and brings you closer to success. Presentations at local conferences can be a stepping stone to larger platforms.
  • Publish your findings: Once you have completed your research and written the manuscript, aim for publication in reputable national and international journals to gain recognition and credibility. This will be very helpful when applying for travel grants and bursaries.

 

  1. Seek Out Funding:

A photo looking upwards at the sky, which is blue with some thin clouds. In the centre of the image is a white planeInternational travel is a major undertaking and a financial burden, especially for those based in a LIC/LMIC with a weak currency. Some ideas to overcome this barrier are as follows

  • Travel grants and scholarships: Many international societies and organizations offer funding opportunities for students and researchers from LIC/LMIC. Research these options thoroughly and seek guidance from those who have attended similar international conferences.
  • Institutional support: Explore funding options through your hospital, institution or university.
  • Personal savings: If possible, consider setting aside a small amount each month to contribute towards conference travel. Remember, every little bit helps!

 

3. Prepare for Challenges:

  • Visa applications: Visa applications can be complex and time-consuming when traveling from a developing country. There is always the chance of rejection without any apparent reason. Unfortunately, this is a reality for many from developing nations.  It is important to prepare for these potential setbacks and remain resilient. Start early, seek guidance from travel consultants (if feasible), get the invitation letter from the conference organizers in advance but still be prepared for potential delays or rejections.
  • Financial constraints: International travel can be expensive for those based in LIC/LMIC. Look for ways to minimize costs, such as booking flights and accommodation in advance and getting an early-bird registration discount. If possible, consider travelling with a group and explore house sharing ( e.g. AirBnB ) for group accommodation.
  • Negative comments: If you are based in a LIC/LMIC then be prepared for some very negative and even nasty comment. It is not uncommon for seniors or peers to feel envious of your efforts to attend international conferences. This negativity often stems from their own lack of initiative. Don't let their negativity deter you. Staying focused on your goals and not letting such comments affect you is essential. Remember, your goal is to contribute to the global community, not to please everyone.

 

Author Presenting a conference paper in Sydney ICC

4. Embrace the Opportunity:

  • Network: Conferences are excellent opportunities to connect with colleagues from around the world. Networking is crucial. Create connections with other professionals, and do not hesitate to share your unique perspectives. Such interactions can lead to future collaborations and further opportunities for research and presentations.
  • Learn: Attend sessions, workshops, and presentations to stay updated on the latest advancements in your field.
  • Share: Present your work with confidence and engage in discussions to share your unique perspective.
  • Enjoy: Take some time to explore the host city and experience the local culture. Experiencing a new culture and environment can be enriching and provide a well-rounded perspective.

Remember, attending international conferences is more than just a personal achievement. It is about contributing to the global scientific community, advancing healthcare, and representing your country with pride.

By following this roadmap and maintaining a persistent and positive attitude, you can overcome the challenges and make your mark on the international medical stage. Do not let anything hold you back from sharing your valuable knowledge and expertise with the world.

 

Disclaimer: This blogpost is based on a LinkedIn post by the author https://bit.ly/3VsXRid 

Dr Farooq is an AuthorAID Steward (https://www.authoraid.info/en/about/authoraid-team/ ). He is currently working as an Associate Professor and consultant physician specializing in Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Medicine at the Armed Forces Institute of Rehabilitation Medicine (AFIRM), Pakistan.

 

1st photo and thumbnail image: Photo by Philip Myrtorp on Unsplash

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