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Geodynamics

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2017 AGU Fall Meeting

2017 AGU Fall Meeting

 

The largest Earth and Space science meeting in the world is taking place in New Orleans, Louisiana.

As usual, once a year AGU gathers the best and brightest minds from around the globe in the pursuit of high quality science, knowledge, and a more sustainable future. In particular, AGU allows to share your science, advance your career, and gain visibility and recognition for your own scientific efforts alongside the world’s leading scientific minds. With more than 20,000 oral and poster presentations, scientists can get the latest in groundbreaking research from every field and gain inspiration for your own work.

 

A classic crowded poster session at AGU

 

This fall meeting is a great way for early-career professionals to make connections. Not only are attendees exposed to thousands of presentations filled with emerging science and new research, but they have the opportunity to attend countless events and workshops that can equip them with the right tools to build a sustainable career. Presenters get constructive feedback in real time from experts and established scientists in the field. Presenting is a great way to test-drive your research before publishing in a peer-reviewed journal.

 

French Quarter by night. One of the great things about the French Quarter is that it sits beside the mississippi river, which turns out is beautiful at night!

 

But not only that! This meeting gives the opportunity to explore the city’s world-famous French Quarter, Jackson Square, and Saint Louis Cathedral. New Orleans is the birthplace of jazz and a mecca for gospel, the rock and pop we love today. Strolling through the French Quarter you can enjoy many live music performances ranging from swanky lounges to tiny honky-tonks – enjoy!

Conferences – so near and yet so far

Conferences – so near and yet so far

Attending conferences is expensive and time consuming, so going to all the conferences relevant for your research topic(s) is an impossible mission. One solution might be to attend (parts of) conferences remotely. Suzanne Atkins, postdoc at ETH Zürich, Switzerland, discusses the pros and cons of remote conferencing.

Last month the Geological Society of London live-streamed their celebration of 50 years of plate tectonics. Here at ETH we joined the love-in, camping out in the lecture theatre for two days. This follows the trend of many conferences to live-stream sessions or make them available on-line afterwards. But can video conferences replace the real thing? And would we want them too?

On paper, there are so many reasons to support video conferencing and replays. The most obvious one is financial. Many students are limited to local conferences and even professors have to watch their expenditure. The eye-watering cost of a large conference like EGU makes annual attendance unfeasible for many scientists, especially when extras like beer are factored in. If you’re only interested in one or two sessions, dropping in remotely makes far more sense than dragging yourself halfway across the continent for an afternoon.

But there are plenty of other reasons. Here at ETH, our flights make up around 60% of the department CO2 budget. Yes, I could take the train but I’m too lazy and impatient (I know, I know), especially if I’m only interested in half the conference. This doesn’t even take into account the vast carbon footprint of the hospitality industry, to which we are contributing every time we stay in a hotel or eat at a restaurant. Remote conference attendance is therefore the only really defensible environmental option.

The attraction of attending a conference where I can sleep in my own bed is high, but for academic parents, or even just academics with a life outside work, the benefits of cutting a few trips off the yearly circuit without missing out are obvious. Especially in the summer season, when we’re all trying to cram in holidays and a bit of teaching-free research time, the seemingly endless round of meetings and workshops can end up feeling more of a chore than a pleasure.

This brings me to my final point in favour. For a remote conference, etiquette is far more flexible than in person attendance. No one at the conference can see you checking your emails, or dipping in and out to talk to students. The university WiFi is nice and reliable. And the quality of the coffee is just so much more … predictable.

So, what are the drawbacks? Why don’t we all switch over immediately? Obviously attending conferences remotely can make it difficult to present your own work and get feedback, which is invaluable for us. We will never be able to fully replicate digitally the experience of a long poster discussion, chatting to someone after a talk, or the serendipitous meeting in the coffee queue.

But there may also be some subtler disadvantages. At cash-strapped institutes, remote conferencing will allow staff and students who otherwise couldn’t attend to see the talks. But it might also lead to pressure, particularly on students and junior researchers, to cut expenditure by never leaving the building. That deprives them of the networking and presentation opportunities that conferences offer. The flip-side of this is that conferences would get boring scientifically. The same few faces would attend every time, starving the community of new ideas and input. Both of these seem somewhat extreme endpoints, which could be guarded against by careful management within institutes and by conference organisers, and the availability of grants and scholarships for attendance.

So all in all, I think I have to conclude that live streaming conferences seems a sensible way to go. I can even head off to my post-conference Friday beer in the common room afterwards. Cheers!

One month to AGU!

One month to AGU!
As the leaves are falling; the sun is going down before you leave the office; and the stores are stacking up on Christmas decorations, it’s time to face the facts: it’s almost AGU! It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but just in case. Don’t worry, there is still time to reread your abstract to see what you’re supposed to be presenting, figure out how to do that in the several weeks that are left and wrap it all up in a convincing poster or talk.
But first, check out these tips on presenting your work: our EGU GD blogs on creating prize-winning posters and selecting proper color schemes, EGU resources on making posters and these Science magazine posts on creating and giving great oral presentations. And while you’re at it, research New Orleans  highlights, such as the French quarter and the excellent cuisine. There is still time to register for some of the AGU field trips too! And wait, did you book your hotel and flights? Then, get to work!

Poster presentation tips

Poster presentation tips

Being a scientist is more than just doing research and science. You also need to be able to communicate your findings to your peers and/or the general public (outreach). At conferences, you usually have two options for presenting your work: a talk or a poster (although at EGU, you also have the PICO sessions). A poster is often preferred if you would like to start a discussion and get lots of feedback on your work. So how do you ensure that people will come to your poster, stay to read it, and take the most important messages home? Charitra Jain, PhD student at ETH Zurich, Switzerland and winner of the Outstanding Student Poster Award at NetherMod 2017, gives some tips.

Charitra Jain

Some things I consider important while making posters:
• Break down the text in concise bullet points
• Use a non-white background to make your poster stand out among hundreds of posters
• Find the right balance between text and figures (depending on if you are planning to stay at your poster)
• Make sure your poster is easy to navigate
• Highlight the keywords
• Use 2-3 font sizes to represent hierarchy
• Think about “breathability”: don’t overcrowd your poster
• Demarcate different sections clearly
• Use perpetually-uniform color scales (also see this post by Fabio Crameri. I am trying to integrate these colour scales in my future plots/figures)
• Zoom 100% in on your poster on your screen and try to read it from 2 meters away to get an impression of what the poster will look like eventually

Besides tips from Charitra Jain, it is also useful to know what the jury deems important in a poster. Therefore, the list of criteria that Susanne Buiter presented at the Outstanding Student Poster Award Ceremony at NetherMod 2017 is reproduced here:

Poster design
• Clarity
• Aim and motivation
• Key findings
• Large figures
• Readable text
• More figures than text

Presentation and knowledge of the subject
• The story
• Figures supportive of the story
• Discussion/ability to answers questions

Charitra Jain’s winning poster at NetherMod 2017 on the generation of primordial continental crust (click to enlarge)