This is the first summer in several years that I’ve decided to prioritize something other than field work. This year, I’m focusing on going to conferences and writing up my work—as well as some field work, fear not: there will be photos of baby juncos this year.
Conferences are a strange combination of things. They are a chance to meet new people and spark collaborations: hey, you do that thing and I do this thing, we should do things together! But they are also a chance to size up the competition, to try to gauge where your work falls on the spectrum of research quality. Scientists naturally see each other as resources and potential collaborators, but occasionally we have to remember that we are all competing for the same limited pot of research funding, of post-doctoral positions, of jobs.
Given that reality, I’m always proud of how little we behave like competitors: we edit each other’s grant applications and give suggestions on each other’s job talks, even while we know that we too need grants and jobs.
Conferences are a chance to disseminate your own findings. I’m going to two conferences this summer to present my work: I just got back from the Animal Behavior Society conference, and in a few days I leave for Evolution. I’m presenting different pieces of my research at each, so if anyone else happens to go to both, they won’t have to see a rerun of the same talk.
Giving a scientific talk is definitely a performance. Some rare people are really, really good at it.
I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it.
Conferences are also a chance to go to cool places—and then spend all your time in a too-air-conditioned conference room looking at Powerpoint slides. The conference I just got back from took place in Anchorage, Alaska; I can vouch that Powerpoint slides look pretty much the same in Anchorage as they do in my hometown. Of course, you can often manage to grab a few extra days to explore once the conference is over.
You may have guessed that I did not take these photos from inside a conference room.
And the next conference I’m going to is in Brazil!