Some meeting deadlines have already passed. Others are hard on us. Choose a meeting now and figure out how to get to it. If you are a student, or postdoc, find all the competitions you can enter and do it. You can get information on the Ecological Society of America awards from the Oikos blog here. The Allee Symposium has a deadline coming up next week, so graduate students and recent graduate students headed to the Animal Behavior meetings in Albuquerque should send their papers now to Dan Rubenstein, second president elect. Find everything in your field and apply for it if you are eligible.
Meetings are important for stretching your perspective. You can learn things that you didn’t even know you wanted to know, but, once learned, change everything. I felt that way from just an hour talking to Adam Kuspa about Dictyostelium sociality yesterday. He challenged my view of a lot of really basic things. I know this may not be anything you care about, but at meetings you can find people that share your arcane interests. Adam made it clear that you are what you eat, even for a social amoeba. A weak immune system can change you. What seems dead may not be. These are big ideas, cool directions from one of the biggest thinkers in Dictyostelium biology, really exciting. What he said made two impressions on me. First, it will change how we do things. Second, the generosity of sharing unpublished ideas is something I love about the best scientists. We would never violate that trust. We will be careful to see to it that our experiments complement his and return the favor should we find something cool.
If you are a struggling student, you may find meetings a tough expense. I say you cannot afford not to go. Pay the student rate for registration. Get a group to drive if it is close, or buy your plane ticket early. For lodging try airbnb, couchsurfing, or camping if the rooms are too expensive. Buy food at a grocery store, or find cheap places to eat. Apply for all possible funding from the meeting, from your university, from your advisor, even from your family. But go, give a talk, or a poster, and talk with people you know and people you don’t know. You might even want to go to two meetings, one very close to your interests, the other in a stretch direction.
Try to have some goals as to what you want to learn before you go to the meeting. Look at the roster to see who will be there. If there are luminaries in your field, read the abstracts of some of their papers again so they are fresh. If you are timid about contacting those people, seek out their grad students and postdocs. Ask them questions about their work and they will talk. You could go to a meeting and learn nearly nothing, or have it change your life. It is up to you.
Have the 1 minute, 5 minute, even 10 minute version of what you do ready. Keep in mind the big reason you do what you do. Don’t talk about the methods at all. If they are in a close field, they will ask. Make sure you spend as much time talking about their research as talking about yours.
But it is all dependent on some fast actions now. If you missed the signup for a meeting presentation, American Society of Microbiology, for example, put it on your calendar for next year so it doesn’t happen again.