Monday, 2 July 2012


Posted by Dorothy Newbury-Birch

I’m at a conference in Venice and I think it's the most beautiful place I've ever been to. But, with a bit of time on my hands (there’s no English TV in the apartment I’m staying in), I'm wondering why we come to conferences. I've probably been to about 50 conferences, heard around 300 speakers and seen hundreds of posters. I can only remember a handful of any of them.

We’re told that its important for us to attend conferences and disseminate our work. But as I stood in front of my carefully crafted poster today for an hour and a half in the baking heat and spoke to a grand total of three people I wondered just how much dissemination was happening. I once gave an oral presentation in America to three members of my research team and someone who I think was in the wrong room but felt too bad to leave. I have, of course, also given presentations in front of hundreds of people.

So why is it so important and why do I keep coming to conferences? Well the reason is that by coming to these conferences I ‘connect’ with other like-minded people from around the world. I chat with people about their research and my research and we talk about how we can perhaps collaborate on future work.

I sat on the boat to the conference venue today (yes in Venice it's a boat not a bus!) and talked with an academic from Kansas about research in schools - a really useful conversation for a project I'm currently working on. During lunch, I chatted with some colleagues from Barcelona about a European project we are involved in. Over coffee yesterday I talked with someone from Cardiff about complex methodologies and had a chat with a member of the steering group for a recent UK trial we worked on. On the boat back from the venue, I chatted with a researcher from the USA about the differences in obtaining ethical approval in America and the UK.

These are just a few of the many conversations I have had in the last two days. I have also been introduced to some important people in the field who I didn't know before.

I know others find this whole networking thing really difficult. Anyone who knows me will know that my two greatest loves are talking and biscuits, so for me it's fantastic. But it's more than just chatting. These events give me time to think about past, present and future research and to explore ideas with others who are giving themselves the time to do the same.

They give me time to ponder and that's a good thing and that's why I come to conferences.

No comments:

Post a Comment