How do you pitch going to R conferences?

So I'm a student coming up on the end of my PhD, and my experience of conferences so far has been entirely academic: I've been to domestic and international conferences, and I've been lucky enough to have them funded by my supervisor or institution. They've all been field-oriented (so climate science or environmental health conferences).

So language- or data science-focused conferences like rstudio::conf and useR! are a bit of a different beast for me. I'm doing paid work now as I finish my PhD, so going to one of these self-funded is not entirely out of the question, especially since I'm considering skipping the academic career and trying to build a freelance/consulting career out of data science (for which the benefits of conferences like this are very clear).

But I am very interested in how everyone else ends up at conferences like these. I see the main users (and, please, tell me if I'm wrong here or missing people) as:

  1. academic (ie. student or researcher);
  2. industry (ie. has a job involving data science with a company or other larger business);
  3. self-employed (ie. freelancer, consultant or hobbyist).

So if you're an academic or an industry person, I'd love to know how you convinced the person signing the cheques to send you. What was the value proposition of the conference for you, and what was the value proposition for your company or organisation? Does your org already have recognised mechanisms for sending people to conferences, and are data science conferences considered valid destinations? (I'm particularly interested in that last question for academic folks).

If you're self-employed, did you pay for everything yourself or did you get some kind of external grant or funding to go? Do you build an allowance for conferences into your business expenses?

Thanks! I know these are prying questions, but my experience of the academic side of things is that you don't usually learn how this stuff works until you start asking your supervisor(s). If anyone's willing to talk about this stuff more publicly, it might not just help me (as I consider my future career options) but others who're coming into data science in non-traditional ways.

(If this should be tagged under rstudio::conf instead, I'm happy for it to be moved :slightly_smiling_face:)


I'm in the second category you've described right now and just in the last couple of weeks I've mostly (I hope) convinced my employer to send me to ERUM conference.
The main arguments were:

  1. Importance of the conference in R ecosystem (since it is the main conference in Europe this year).
  2. Cost (Budapest is relatively close to Berlin and therefore the whole thing is not so expensive).
  3. Presence of workshops with topics that are relevant for the company.

Those 3 things were the main arguments. I have to say that since my company is using R anyways, it was not so complicated to make a case that conference such as ERUM is important to attend.