It’s quite possible that the full-throated value of a scientific meeting for your science is only realized once you are a PI.

It is not infrequent that I come back from scientific meetings all in a tizzy to do one of three things.

1) Put the hurry up on pumping out some data that we’ve been collecting.

2) Start new experiments! Several. We gotta get on this right now people so let’s moooooove!

3) Write two or three new grant proposals.

The reasons are varied but it all comes down to the constellation of encouragements you get at a conference through talking with various people about your data and their own data.

This is why we do this. Because the science is exciting. And meetings put a thick underline below this experience.

As those of us in the neurosciences prepare for our largest annual scientific gathering, we should attend to a certain little task to assist with the odds of obtaining NIH grant funding. Part of that process is a long game of developing interpersonal relationships with the Program Officers that staff the NIH ICs of interest to our individual research areas. Many scientists find the schmoozing process to be uncomfortable and perhaps even distasteful.

To this I can only reply “Well, do you want to get funded or not?”.

This post originally went up Nov 12, 2008. I’ve edited a few things for links and content.

One of the most important things you are going to do during the upcoming SfN Annual Meeting in Washington DC is to stroll around NIH row. Right?

I have a few thoughts for the trainees after the jump. I did mention that this is a long game, did I not? Read the rest of this entry »

What with the 2012 edition of the Society for Neuroscience meeting rapidly approaching, I thought I’d return to this critical issue in meeting etiquette.

This was originally posted Sept 11, 2008 on the old Scienceblogs version of DrugMonkey.
Annual scientific meetings have many purposes. One of the most essential purposes that cannot be readily accomplished by other means is the initiation and development of inter-personal relationships. Call it networking, schmoozing or whatever you like. As with any other human enterprise, there are many aspects that are improved by meeting other people face to face and becoming acquainted with them.
There is an aspect of scientific meetings, however, that always presents a very difficult problem for YHN (see Figure 1).

Read the rest of this entry »

Neuropolarbear has a post up suggesting that people presenting posters at scientific meetings should know how to give the short version of their poster.

My favorite time to see posters is 11:55 and 4:55, since then people are forced to keep it short.

If you are writing your poster talk right now, remember to use a stopwatch and make your 5 minute version 5 minutes.

Don’t even practice a longer version.

I have a suggestion.

Ask the person to tell you why they are there! Really, this is a several second exchange that can save a lot of time. For noobs, sure, maybe this is slightly embarrassing because it underlines that even if you have managed to scope out the name successfully you do not remember that this is some luminary in your subfield. Whatever. Suck it up and ask. It saves tremendous time.

If you are presenting rodent behavioral data and the person indicates that they know their way around an intravenous self-administration procedure, skip the methods! or just highlight where you’ve deviated critically from the expected paradigms. If they are some molecular douche who just stopped by because “THC” caught their eye then you may need to go into some detail about what sort of paradigms you are presenting.

Similarly if it is someone from the lab that just published a paper close to your findings, just jump straight to the data-chase. “This part of figure 2 totally explains what you just published”

Trust me, they will thank you.

As Neuropolarbear observes, if you’ve skipped something key, then this person will ask. Poster sessions are great that way.

Watch this video. If you are anything like me, you have essentially zero understanding of what this guy is talking about. To start with. It very rapidly devolves into technical jargon and insider references to things that I don’t really understand.

But you know what?

After awhile you probably kinda-sorta pick up on what is going on and can kinda-sorta understand what he’s telling his audience. I think I am impressed at that part.

Watching this through also makes you realize that a computer-geek presentation really doesn’t differ much from the talks we give in our science subfields. And if you skip through to the Q&A about two-thirds through, you’ll see that this part is familiar too.

I think I may just make this a training video for my scientific trainees.

I decided to go to EB12 so I’ll extend my offer/request from the usual SFN routine.

No promises, but if you drop me a line (drugmnky at the googles) or post your presentation details in the comments, I’ll try to stop by. Might even blog your work!

Also, there may be coffee klatch…interested?

Interesting post up at the haydenlab blog:

In the post-SFN hangover phase, many neuroscientists are in a slightly more anxious state about the possibility that they are about to be scooped. Surely with all those posters, you must have seen someone who has the same brilliant idea in their head as you, right?

With a few exceptions, these fears turn out to be silly. Why?

The author then goes on to list a number of reasons why getting scooped* is not as bad as is usually imagined. I tend to agree** with the points being made. One that is obscured is that in most areas of real science, the paper that does the best job is going to rack up the the respect and citations. Even if it appeared after the very first report of the general phenomenon.

So I tend to think scientists should remember they are playing the long game. And not get too concerned about the possibility that they are about to get scooped.

*someone else manages to publish an experimental finding that you are working on before you get your paper published.

**the pursuit of GlamourMag science prioritizes the first publication of something over many other factors, including scientific quality and genuine impact, for example.

Did I mention I enjoy learning more about the neurobiological and behavioral effects of recreational drugs as well as the development and treatment of addictions?

The College on Problems of Drug Dependence will be holding their annual meeting in Hollywood Florida this upcoming week. I’ve been going through the Itinerary Planner and Program Book to get a preview. There are a few presentations that touch on topics that we’ve blogged about here at the DrugMonkey blog, including

-treating the hyponatremia associated with MDMA-induced medical emergency

vaccination against drug abuse

exercise as a potential therapy for, or antidote against, stimulant drug addiction

-JWH-018 and other synthetic cannabinoid constituents of Spice/K2 and similar “incense” products

-some preclinical studies on mephedrone / 4-methylmethcathinone

-presentations from the DEA on scheduling actions that are in progress

I’m certainly looking forward to seeing a lot of interesting new data over the next week.

Posters, FTW!

November 15, 2010

Just two days in and already I’ve had a ton of useful chats at posters during the SfN Annual Meeting. Most of the useful conversations are about matters other than what is on the poster the person is presenting at this time.

  • Reminders of what people did in the past, that I had forgotten or never knew about.
  • Exchange of info about the reality behind the polished papers.
  • Talks about the data not yet published because a slightly unexpected finding (we share) makes tradition-minded reviewers get the collywobbles.
  • Collegial sharing about the current directions and progress for a topic of interest.
  • Revelations about just who is breathing down our neck on which project.

The poster floor at a meeting is where it is AT. I can talk to people I know really well anytime via phone or email. If you are upstairs outside of the platform presentation rooms glad handing your best buds you see everywhere you are missing out.

…over at Dr. Jekyll & Mrs. Hyde’s blog.

When Google can predict, before I finish typing, the rest of the last name of the ex-boyfriend I’m thinking about? When we can crowd-source an encyclopedia with useful entries on “Factors affecting the crack spread”? [I clicked on the “random” button, I swear.] Does it honest to God still take six months to sort 20,000 abstracts with preselected keywords into one of 8 themes and some number of subthemes/sessions?

some idiot:

but for anyone in between it is a complete waste of time and money, and it’s not even fun.

some genius / KoolAide drinker:

SFN is glorious.

Discuss. Over there.

A recent blog entry from Pascale H. Lane discusses her reasons for belonging to academic societies. Our good blog friend Dr. Isis is frequently found to be going all fangrrl about the APS (no, not the real APS, these Physiological pretenders who are well down the GoogJuice list). Pascale touched on one Golden Thought about what academic societies can do that is, or should be, of general interest to my readership:

The society maintains several grant programs for research funding, and it leads advocacy efforts to maintain adequate federal funding for kidney disease research and treatment.

Grant $$$! Wooot!

Read the rest of this entry »

As I noted previously The Society for Neuroscience encouraged its members to blog and Twitt the annual meeting in Chicago (Oct 17-22, 2009). The experiment was far from a smashing success although I do believe that there were some hints of what could / should be for the future. The main problem* was, I wager, one of numbers. It was a meeting that registered some 30,000 attendees. I counted something maybe on the order of 30 people actively trying to Twitt or blog the meeting. I think you have to have a bit higher participation for the conversation to really take off, but that’s just speculation.
At any rate, I had a thought today. The USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism is holding an event that provides an interesting contrast.

USC Annenberg’s California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships program is holding a day-long brainstorming event aimed at helping Annenberg leaders launch a new, all-expenses-paid, professional seminar series to educate and encourage dialogue among health professional bloggers and Health 2.0 visionaries. The attendees, who include leading Health 2.0 professionals Matthew Holt of The Health Care Blog and Dr. Val Jones of, will discuss the best ways to promote transparency, credibility, accuracy and journalistic principles for the emerging health blogosphere, as well as exposure to larger public health and community health policy issues. This event is by invitation only.

Follow the Twittering on this meeting by the #uscblogcon hashtag. I think this may give you some ideas of what could be, if you are on the fence as to whether Twittering/blogging scientific meetings would have value.
*apart from some technical difficulties with WiFi coverage and too many iPhoners loading up the AT&T network.

Okay folks, the SfN has finally gotten it’s act together and posted the list of official Neurobloggers for the 2009 meeting.
Official SfN blogging/Twitting:
Genes to Brain to Mind to Me (dendrite)
The OneSci Network (OneSci)
Neurotopia (scicurious; @scicurious)
The Shelled Walnut (Kristen; @ShelledWalnut)
Mike Pascoe’s Blog (Mike Pascoe; @mpascoe)
Dormivigilia (Allison Brager)
NeuroTechnica (Tommy Sprague; @M_ostlyharmless)
Neuroethics at the Core (Kate Tairyan, Carole Federico and Daniel Buchman)
NeuroScoop (BrainScientist; @brainscientist2)
Mind At Large (SolomonMayo)

Let me know if you are blogging/Twitting the meeting and I’ll link you up here too.
Un-official SfN blogging/Twitting:
DrugMonkey (YHN, @drugmonkeyblog)
Laura Mariani; @lauramariani
Dr. Becca; @doc_becca
Bjoern Brembs
SfN Potomac Chapter (sean; @SFNpc)
DigiNeuroLab; @balajajian


Science Life; @ScienceLife

I’ll be in attending the SfN meeting which runs Oct 17-21 in Chicago this year. As I noted before, the society is looking to jump onto the social media bandwagon. Haltingly..but still.
I’m looking forward to seeing how enthusiastically this gets adopted. I will consider it success if I see a Twitt about some great poster that I otherwise would have missed in time to visit it. That would appear to be a good use of this technology to me.
anyway… enough blather. On to blog bid’ness.

Read the rest of this entry »

The official Facebook page* for the Society for Neuroscience has an interesting update/wall entry.

Interested in blogging at Neuroscience 2009? Give it some thought. SfN will post application instructions on the Neuroscience 2009 Web site later this month.

Interesting until you remember that the wifi coverage at your typical SfN meeting is poor in the presentation rooms and completely absent on the poster floors. Some of the vendors manage to have internet and even the odd wifi spot so clearly the capability is there.
I will note that this is maddening to those of us who do some of our poster browsing ad hoc, instead of making up comprehensive itineraries in advance. Also, to those of us who want to be able to quickly check PubMed or an abstract from a previous day, or…. Dammit, we need wifi at scientific meetings, yo!
I have it on reasonably good authority that as recently as the past couple of weeks SfN was insisting that no internet would be made available on the poster floor (this person was requesting it for a poster presentation).
So what’s it going to be SfN? Do you want blogging of the meeting? Good wifi is the price of doing business.
*if you are on Facebook and a SfN member do me a favor would you? Go over to that wall update and tell ’em to get wifi working for the meeting?