Angus Ferraro

A tiny soapbox for a climate researcher.

Getting the balance right: talks, posters and more at #EGU2013

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This post is a collection of thoughts about learning how to ‘operate’ huge conferences like EGU. It’s my first time doing this and I’m now starting to learn how to get the most out of it.

First I’d like to talk about the bread-and-butter of the conference, oral presentations (talks). I like going to talks. A well-designed 12-minute talk can give a great overview of the research, communicating novel methods and approaches as well as key results. However, a full day of 12-minute talks is quite draining. My EGU personal programme for the first two days was completely filled with talks and by the end of the first day I was craving a poster session. I enjoy chatting to people over their poster more than I do sitting down and listening to a talk. Going to a talk is a more passive experience. For me, posters are a little more ‘human’. There is time for detailed conversation on topics of your choosing, or you can take a less tiring approach and just wander down the aisles of the poster halls and skim the posters of interest.

Days at the EGU meeting are structured such that most talks happen in the morning and posters in the afternoon. I like this. It recognises that talks are more taxing and puts them early on, allowing people to relax later in the day. However, on Monday and Tuesday I spent the 1730-2000 slot in two excellent short courses on tipping points and predictability. I will write a separate post about them later because they really were superb, but the long and short of it is that I found them a very valuable use of my time. I didn’t miss the posters at all during these sessions because the lecturers were so engaging.

Talks and short courses: that’s been my EGU so far. This evening I will get the chance to go to some poster sessions, which I am really looking forward to.

And yet I’m still missing out on huge chunks of the EGU experience! My calendar is full of sessions running in parallel, all of which I would love to go to. I’ve missed out on some excellent Medal Lectures, which I have heard from friends are really nice (a break from the short, functional oral presentations). When I put together my programme (using the excellent smartphone app) I quickly realised I was going to have to get used to this feeling that I was missing out. Yesterday I tried to flit between sessions, aiming to attend specific presentations. This can be done, but it gets complicated quite quickly, and sometimes it can take a while to get to the new room.

Today I have taken a more laid-back approach. If a talk comes up that isn’t particularly relevant to me I will use that opportunity to ‘zone out’ and rest my brain. As the conference goes on I am finding downtime to be quite important! There is a park close to the conference centre which offers a chance to get some fresh air and relax. I find a relaxing lunch really helps me come back refreshed and ready to engage in the afternoon sessions.

My plan for this afternoon includes the remainder of the session on clouds, aerosols and radiation, the debate on fracking, and a whole host of posters on a remainder of topics. That’s the kind of mix I love: some talks relevant to my own work, something rather different with potential for great discussion, all rounded off by a walk around the poster hall. This evening I’ll be heading to the EGU Tweetup, a meeting for scientists interested in using Twitter and similar tools for science communication. See the #egutweetup hashtag for more details.

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Author: Angus Ferraro

Trainee secondary physics teacher and former climate research scientist.

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