Monday, April 20, 2009

Talking Heads at the AACR

The big talks at the AACR are attended by more than a thousand people, all getting up and leaving or moving in between one speaker and the next in a huge football field room with screens showing the action in every hue of bad color balance imaginable. They should set up the rows of chairs with far more aisle seats!
But really, what is so interesting about the Plenary Session? Is it to see what Francis Collins or Bruce Ponder looks like after all? Because if you go there to hear the latest results, something new and different, you'll be disappointed. The Big Talks are useful for summarizing and putting into context more or less recent findings. They'll improve your image of the Big Picture. But there's not a word said that hasn't been published, reviewed, published again. Experimental data is far too experimental to present here. Leave that for the little talks.
Non sequitur:
Dining in Denver, I have just been served a nice little salad, and I find myself at a loss. There is no bread! I have been in France so long I cannot eat salad without bread.


Rachel Cotterill said...

I think it must vary by field... I've been to conferences in linguistics and in computer science, and usually the plenaries have been really interesting people giving an insight into what they're working on at the moment (or something just completed). Less technical detail than a normal paper but certainly still their own (group's) results, and almost always recent.

sciencegirl said...

I generally find the bigger the name the more general the talk. If you've been keeping up with the literature, these talks really don't have anything new to say. Though like I said in the post, they are useful for adjusting your big picture, something that cannot be ignored. Today's plenary session features lesser gods, and there might be more news.