The truly great thing about the Olympic games is the closing ceremony. Not because I’m anti-sport as some may suggest, but because this is when the athletes dispense with any animosity towards their competitors and enter the arena as friends. This is much like scientific conferences.
One of the key perks of being in research is going to conferences in far away lands. Having said that, my last conference was in my home town, but either way it’s always a great opportunity to meet with your peers.
Conferences can bring moments of great triumph and exhilaration. Like when you see the name tag of the person across from you at the lunch table and realise that you’ve read absolutely all their papers and follow their work obsessively.
You want to go over to them immediately and gush about how inspirational their work has been but you kind of want to be cool as well.The triumph is when you get the nerve to hold a normal conversation with them without them thinking your crazy. I’m still working on that last bit.
Occasional moments of exhilaration also occur when someone reads your name badge and approaches you to gush about your work. This never gets old. Ever. The struggle for me is to also be cool about it and not give them a great big bear hug of gratitude.
Then there are moments of despair. Like when someone presents their data exactly in your field but they’ve done it better. And with the most advanced technology. And are ready to publish. But always from despair rises hope, usually in the form of a new collaboration.
All this networking is exhausting. But by the end of a good international conference, any barriers between countries have been broken down, new alliances have formed and new ideas are set in motion. This is science at its best.
Now to follow up on all these leads and get some new data to present at the next conference. The training for the next event never ends and that’s just how we like it.