Recently a graduate student at UCL emailed me with a request to have access to a number of conference papers I presented at the beginning of my academic career, none of which made it into a publication. Apart from the abstracts which were published in the conference book, nothing of the research or argument presented in these papers survive.
Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. One of the reasons why they were never turned into a publication is probably because they were simply not good enough. Another reason may have been that the 20 minute presentation didn't have enough body to write out as a full paper submission to a Journal or a chapter in a book. A third, and more plausible, reason is that I was too busy doing other stuff to revisit the conference paper and rewrite it as an academic paper.
Nevertheless, I do think they have some value to some people including myself. I myself am interested in the history of the field and in the evolution of ideas - I can't just read an article by my colleagues without looking up the previous publications on which the argument builds - and I find it difficult sometimes to reconstruct a history of thoughts because of the lacking documentation. Therefore, I decided to dig up my old conference presentations and make them publicly available on this blog over the coming weeks. For me personally, it'll probably be a confronting revisit of my first steps in academia, but it will hopefully generate a better understanding of the provenance of my current ideas.
For my own documentation and for the sake of contextualisation I will provide each paper with a short introduction explaining the circumstances of the research and the occasion of the presentation. I'll also try to reconstruct which conference papers were the inspiration to published papers.