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Thread: Making scientific conferences more effective

  1. #1 Making scientific conferences more effective 
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    This is a summary of a suggestion on how to make conferences more productive.

    Attending a professional conference is expensive. Registration fees are typically several hundred dollars. And this is only a small part of the total cost. A conference in Europe, for example, for a US participant, often costs nearly $3000. Furthermore, conferences are not as effective as they could be. Most of the time is usually spent on passive listening to presentations rather than discussing previously-read reports.

    How can the situation be improved? This question is answered in a recently published Letter to the Editor (Physics Today, September 2010, page 10). The title is "Forging more effective science conferences;" the author is Ludwik Kowalski (myself). Here is a brief summary.

    1) A conference should have a website. Make all presentations available on-line, not later than two weeks before the conference.

    2) Organize preliminary discussion of presentations, at the conference website, as soon as they are posted.

    3) Reduce duration of oral presentations. For a typical 30-minute presentation, for example, 5 minutes could be allocated for a summary and the remaining time could be used for questions and discussion.

    What are the advantages of such an approach?

    a) Participants will have time to think and discuss the content prior to the conference.

    b) Most of the conference time will be spent on active participation, rather than on passive listening.

    c) Some controversial issues might be resolved before the conference; only the remaining issues would be addressed.

    d) Those who cannot afford to attend the conference would still be able to read the reports, and to participate in pre-conference debates.


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    Forum Cosmic Wizard spuriousmonkey's Avatar
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    The modern conference isn't a place to discuss the latest research. It is to present published research with a hint of the new stuff often uninformative. In my last conference this person had an interesting result, but wouldn't even name the gene involved. Which made it all pointless.

    It is true that the conference served the function of furthering future research in the 50s and 60s. But those days are long gone.

    Mostly it is about networking or having a nice holiday nowadays.


    "Kill them all and let God sort them out."

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  4. #3  
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    Quote Originally Posted by spuriousmonkey
    The modern conference isn't a place to discuss the latest research. It is to present published research with a hint of the new stuff often uninformative. In my last conference this person had an interesting result, but wouldn't even name the gene involved. Which made it all pointless.

    It is true that the conference served the function of furthering future research in the 50s and 60s. But those days are long gone.

    Mostly it is about networking or having a nice holiday nowadays.
    . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

    1) The entire Letter to the Editor (not the summary posted yesterday) can now be downloaded (as a pdf file) from:

    h*ttp://scitation.aip.org/getpdf/servlet/GetPDFServlet?filetype=pdf&id=PHTOAD00006300000900 0010000001&idtype=cvips&prog=normal

    But first remove the asterisk.

    2) My I suggest that "spuriousmonkey," or any one else who has a comment on the topic, also publishes it in Physics Today. Discussions that follow published letters to the editor are often very interesting. The address to which to send a reply is:

    Dr. Richard Fitzgerald (managing editor)
    American Center for Physics
    One Physics Ellipse
    College Park. MD
    20740-3842

    The email address is also provided on page 6, below the name: rjf@aip.org
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