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[BEIJING] Despite China hosting an increased number of academic conferences, only 39 per cent of participants are content with their quality.

This was the finding of a survey conducted by Chen Shijun from the Scientific and Social Research Centre at Tianjin University. Shijun interviewed 380 science academics and students between October 2007 and February 2008.

The survey found that many participants believe most conferences are not organised in a professional manner, rarely considering the opinions of those involved in the field and selecting attendees and speakers based on reputations rather than expertise. Many felt that the conferences set low, or no, standards for selecting participants.

Respondents said many of the meetings were organised merely because it is in an organisation's list of objectives, or to raise profit from registration fees.

"Only half of the conferences set the promotion of academic exchange and development of science and technology as their original purpose," said Chen, presenting the findings at a meeting of the China Association for Science and Technology in May.

Chen said that under these circumstances, the themes and subjects of many academic conferences become "vague and blurry".

Another problem highlighted in the survey is that discussion time for the participants is insufficient. Usually, just two speakers dominate the agenda, with the rest of the participants a mute audience.

"There is little communication and discussion, and debates are really rare. Consequently, the significance of the conferences will be inevitably weakened," said Chen.

The survey comes as China is hosting more international academic conferences organised in association with overseas institutes. Chen told SciDev.Net that the number of international meetings more than doubled from 144 in 2003 to 316 in 2006, with attendees increasing from 31,900 in 2003 to 82,400 in 2006.

Chen says that, given the choice, many Chinese academics would prefer to attend an internationally, rather than a domestically, organised meeting on the same theme, due to their better quality organisation and discussion.

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