Don’t tell my university administrators, but sharing my latest science results is only a tiny fraction of the reason to go to a conference like AGU. Even hearing the latest and greatest science is not the entire reason. This is a lesson that is taking me a long time to learn. I get giddy with the thought of all the cool science I want to take in at AGU. I plan my schedule full from 8 am to 6 pm with talk after talk and poster after poster. Since the work I do crosses several sub-disciplines, I am often forced to make difficult choices between competing timeslots. When I was a wee grad student I rushed madly from place to place, resulting in me being overwhelmed after about two days. And all the science I was trying to cram in to my brain ended up jumbled up and confused. Plus, I missed a major major point of scientific meetings. It’s not the science, it’s the meeting (people). As DrugMonkey says over and over again, it’s all about the networking.
So this AGU, my poster was the excuse to spend the money on the plane ticket, hotel, registration and food. (San Francisco is not cheap!) And this AGU, I did listen to some really amazing scientific talks and read some excellent posters. But mostly, I wanted to talk to the movers and shakers and rising stars in my subdisciplines. I wanted to introduce myself or remind them of my presence. I wanted to put into their heads that I can do some exciting stuff (even if it isn’t all ready for the prime time yet), and I wanted to spark idea of collaborations. What I want is this: the next time they think of a cool project to which I could contribute, I want them to think of, and then email, me. I want to break into the informal network of rising stars.
I don’t know that I entirely accomplished my goal, but I think I accomplished enough. I’ve got a good list of people to follow up with over email. I’ve got plans and a co-conspirator to convene a session at a conference next year. I’ve got an idea for a proposal that sounded awfully fundable over wine and cheese. I think I may have made some headway with the rising stars – at least I’ve reminded them that I exist.
But, oddly, I think by the time I go to AGU next year, the poster is going to have to be a bigger part of the focus. This year’s poster was a smallish side project that isn’t entirely in line with my main planned research focus. Next year I think I really need to come to AGU with something substantive and something directly related to my main area of research interest. This year I talked a good talk, but next year I’ve also got to walk a good walk. And maybe then someone will consider me a rising star with whom they must network.