On BrainTrain & Ocean Sciences: the conference student+ experience

I love scientific conferences. Going to meetings is like taking the pulse of research: you learn about cool, interesting (often still unpublished) science, and you get to meet new people and network. Unfortunately, all too often, students and postdocs are forced to take the back seats at these events. We are not involved in the organisation, and generally only have limited opportunity to actively participate. Luckily, this is slowly changing: there’s a growing recognition by senior scientists and funding agencies that students are a vital part of meetings, that our interests may extend beyond regular scientific talks, and that it’s useful for us to take part in the organization. Two recent meetings, the BrainTrain Conference in Japan and the Ocean Sciences Meeting (OSM) 2014 in Hawaii, highlight how students can get involved. Continue reading

Why we should get rid of poster prizes at conferences


Picture by ebbandflowphotography via flickr.

It’s that time of year again. Last week the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the nominees for this years’ Academy Awards. Filmmakers and filmlovers (well, and also critics, fashonistas and gossip columnists) are on the edge of their seats: Who will win the Oscars this year? And as we wait for March 2nd – what better time to discuss awards of a different kind: poster prizes at conferences?

Poster prizes are a regular feature at many conferences. Poster prizes are usually either a moderately large sum of money (e.g. enough to go to a conference), or maybe a year-long subscription to a journal, or some gadget, like an iPod, which are awarded to the person (or people) who have the most interesting and well-presented poster. A small jury, consisting of established senior scientists, selects the winning posters, and the winner gets to be in the limelight of the meeting for about 30 seconds while he/she collects the prize. Often, winners are also given a short slot to talk about the results on the poster. So, really, you might say, poster prizes are great. It’s a just reward for the work that’s been done, and it may even spark some scientific discourse, because conference attendees will discuss the poster that got awarded.

But there’s a catch: Continue reading