Monday, July 30, 2007

What are scientific meetings for

Anatomy of a Paper: Part I, Inspiration: I will never understand how people can suggest replacing conferences or seminar visits with talks broadcast over the internet. That’s like trying to improve a restaurant experience by making sure the plates and cutlery are really shiny, and doing away with the food entirely. Conferences aren’t about talks, although those are occasionally interesting. [...] They’re about the ongoing low-level interaction between the participants at meals and coffee breaks. That’s where the ideas get created! Then you can each go home and apply yourself to the nitty-gritty work of turning those ideas into papers. (Via Cosmic Variance.)


Mark Johnson said...

Your quote's true about conferences today.

But isn't the real question: how can we accomplish the informal networking that happens today at conferences by some other means that doesn't consume as many resources (researcher travel time, jet fuel, etc.)?

If we could cut the number of conferences in half we'd save a lot of resources.

Fernando Pereira said...

How can we accomplish more economically the informal networking we achieve today in conferences? Face-to-face conversation has many features that we don't know how to provide online, from a wide range of levels of privacy to introductions (meet my student X). This year's ACL and EMNLP were one of my most intellectually stimulating and productive weeks in a long while. I learned a lot, I met for the first time several interesting new researchers (students of friends, mostly), and I had overall a great time. You may be more imaginative, but I can't see how to accomplish these results without actually getting together with colleagues.