Conference observations

Nov 05 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Seriously, I can't go through the motions of that conversation any more. The one that starts out with a backhanded joke about the science of someone who gets Moore Foundation money (or other equivalents) and proceeds into a discussion (or monolog in some cases) about how much better their science would be in they took X or Y into account. The most popular target seems to be Craig Venter, of the human genome and Global Ocean Survey fame. Sure, he's a narcissist and yes, it's a bad idea to only sample the world's oceans at 2m, but we know this and I can't take rehashing it again. The most prominent offenders are almost always people who use the massive amounts of data Venter has been a force in creating, in their own work. Could it be a better resources? Probably, but I find myself feeling like I'm talking to people who don't vote but complain about politicians. If you don't like it, do something about it and stop complaining to me.

Can we institute some sort of licensing for the use of AV projection equipment that needs to be renewed every couple of years? It could be like a diver's license, where one would have to show functionality with the equipment at first, but then occasionally re-demonstrate their ability to use said equipment safely. After the age of 55, maybe it's important to demonstrate this more regularly, so that you don't get up in front of an audience and cause some massive technology pile-up. No! Don't hit the "black screen" button and then look bewildered for 30 seconds before a grad student fixes it, again!

Like I said last night, this isn't my crowd. What has been really interesting is the importance of lineage in this group. "Who did you work with?" is a regular question if the information isn't volunteered early in conversation (often it is). I can't figure out if I'm noticing this more because I don't know a lot of these people or if this behavior is indeed, unlike the circles I normally travel in, but there is no question there is huge importance on who knows who here. If someone's supervisor is not quickly recognized, a long explanation ensues to place the person's supervisor in the greater context of the field. This is curious behavior to me, but I suspect fairly common.

6 responses so far

  • Anonymous says:

    I think marine metagenomicists have a resource-based reason for saying which lineage they come from. There are few scientists with enough pull to get the funds needed for metagenomics work (esp going back 10 years), so proclaiming you are from one of those labs means you were in the thick of things. Secondly, for deep-sea researchers, the different frequently studied sites are divvied up among the major professors (and their trainees).

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    While that may be true, the people who make up the majority of this meeting do not have these reasons to fall back on. It's strictly a status thing.

  • DamnGoodTechnician says:

    Super-duper ditto about the conference facilities. You've gotta love the yellow haze that shows up on displays from old-ass projectors, or the dark line where a filter has gone to hell.

  • Arlenna says:

    I always feel slimy when I come away from that kind of social environment. The "who did you work for" question can either be completely normal and informative, building a relevant bridge into a conversation about your science and the field among friends......OR it can feel like making sure I had my Girbaud jeans, curled bangs and Hypercolor T-shirt right for impressing the cool kids in middle school.

  • Anonymous says:

    ....wait until you're 55 and can't easily focus on the buttons (nor read their labels), or the little places to put cables into (let alone THEIR labels). And it gets twice as hard in the typical dim conference room lighting (yes, even with your reading glasses or bifocals on). I've been programming and using computers for almost 40 years (!) and suddenly, when age induced near vision troubles hit about 2 years ago, I began "fumbling" with some of the tech. At just over 50, I don't think it's senility... Don't judge...don't judge! (Though when all of you who are following us pioneers arrive in about 10 years, I bet those labels are going to get larger and backlit.)

  • Prof-like Substance says:

    Anon, it's not the fumbling of the buttons as much as just being generally flummoxed by technology. If you tell someone three times that the bottom of four buttons on the remote is a black screen button and that they shouldn't touch it (or if they do, hit it again) and they press it half a dozen times during a 30 minute presentation only to stare blankly at the screen until someone comes to the rescue, it's time to let someone else run their slides. Just sayin'.

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