Overall the meeting in the Armpit of the Midwest went very well (for me). I came away with a seminar invitation, ideas for a couple of cool experiments to do, and a bunch of good suggestions/ideas relating to my fledgling new research program. I also had a very informative and productive two hour lunch with Mega-Big Cheese (recent NAS inductee), Super Big Cheese and Former Postdoc Mentor (also a Super Big Cheese). To what extent I swayed the NSF review panel members who were there is an unknown of course. I've done what I can and now it's time to focus on getting stuff done for the resubmission should it be necessary...
Here are some observations from the meeting:
- When giving a 30 minute talk, it's probably not a good idea to spend 20 minutes introducing a subject that everyone in the audience has a good grasp of, 2 minutes on data and 8 on (over-reaching) conclusions... It would have been one thing if a graduate student had done this, but sadly it was a rather senior and well-known PI.
- If you're attending a highly-focused meeting on thingamabobs and present a poster on doozits (which aren't related to thingamabobs at all), don't be surprised if very few people show any interest. And don't spend the remainder of the meeting complaining loudly that very few people showed interest.
- If you're organizing a small meeting and want to have all of the talks loaded onto a single laptop, make the laptop available to speakers more than five minutes before each session starts. And use a PC (or at the very least warn all speakers in advance that you're going to use a Mac). I'm a Mac person, but even I recognize that, thanks to Micro$oft, Powerpoint slides made on a PC often don't work on a Mac, whereas the opposite usually (not always) works. It was very painful watching two inexperienced graduate student speakers struggling with screwed up slides that were prepared on a PC but didn't work on a Mac. And it wasn't their fault - they weren't given the time to look over their slides on the Mac prior to their talks.
- If you're organizing a small meeting, don't insist all talks are loaded onto one laptop. Get a switch.
- Just because you used to be a Big Cheese (no, you used to be one, but really aren't anymore - study sections have been telling you that for a decade, and rightly so) does not mean you get to ask off-topic questions after every talk.
- It's okay to canvass the powers that be to elect you organizer for next year's meeting. That's how it works. It's not okay, after being elected, to tell everyone that you didn't canvass. It's a small group. We're all aware of who does what. Now you look like a jackass.*
- Poster making is an art form. There's a lot of really bad art out there. Really bad.
- The right amount of beer + the right amount of wine = good science. Usually. Too much beer + too much wine + one graduate student = a messy job for the janitor.
* And before anyone leaps to the conclusion that this is sour grapes on my part, I organized this meeting a few years ago and am therefore not eligible to organize it again. That's how this one works.