I was not one of these scientists, and I was bummed about it.
Conferences are very important for scientists for many reasons. They serve as forums to share work that is brand new and unpublished. They allow scientists with common interests to meet face-to-face, creating opportunities for collaboration and generation of new ideas. They can even be places to find your next job!
But from the opposite perspective, conferences are expensive: registration, hotel, transportation, and food add up quickly. And if you aren't there, you miss out. While not every presentation at a conference will become a published academic paper, many of the ideas and techniques presented could pass you by due to the lag time between the completion of scientific studies and the actual publication of those studies.
However, social media applications like Twitter are now allowing outsiders to get a peak into scientific conferences like never before in addition to giving conference-goers an improved experience.
Let me show you how. While working this weekend, I had my tweetdeck up monitoring the hashtag #evol2013. Below are some examples of how I got to see who was presenting what and how Evolution 2013 attendees made their conference better with lighting-fast sharing.
Disclaimer: since all of the below twitter accounts are public, I didn't ask everyone for permission. Keep in mind that they are not endorsing my opinions, and I encourage you to link to their accounts to read all about their various adventures.
First of all, sharing interesting talks (even your own!) is easy:
Can I give my talk without any text at all? We'll see. Would love feedback on the attempt. Today at 10:45. #evol2013
— Chris Nasrallah (@ChrisNasrallah) June 24, 2013
Brian O'Meara starts off talking about species delimitation in Middle Earth #evol2013
— Jeremy Brown (@jembrown) June 22, 2013
.@lukejharmon "I'm going to be talking about software that doesn't exist yet" #evol2013
— Holly Bik (@Dr_Bik) June 22, 2013
Meeting up with like-minded attendees:
GRAD STUDENTS- remember SSE grad mixer 5pm, Golden Cliff Rm. We need advice on how best to help you! #evol2013
— Mohamed Noor (@mafnoor) June 22, 2013
Today at #evol2013 - "Women in Science" luncheon. Noon in Golden Cliff. BYOB (Bring your own burrito).
— WINS (@Women_in_NatSci) June 22, 2013
@HHMINEWS Evolution in sticklebacks movie now in ballroom. Y'all should come. Free popcorn and drinks, too! #evol2013
— Amanda June (@SciOfMotherhood) June 22, 2013
Making life easier for conference attendees with schedules, snacks, and saunas:
anyone else at #evol2013 wanting a single doc with all talks/keynotes/posters listed? here's the pdf I've been using: http://t.co/rgguXtc6i3
— Bob Thomson (@rcthomson) June 22, 2013
#evol2013 Extended spa hours till 9:00 PM Sunday-Tuesday. Sauna and roof-top pool. Spa access $5 per day.
— Evolution 2013 (@Evol2013) June 22, 2013
Bree Rosenblum just passed out organic rice crispie talks before her talk. #evol2013
— Luke Harmon (@lukejharmon) June 22, 2013
What are other scientists talking about? Now you know, from the interesting perspectives of respected faculty to the alway-relevant jokes about dress code and grad student scavengers:
17% of # of #evol2013 attendees r now following @Evol2013. Neat. Twitter is the means by which closed meetings become #openscience
— Seth Bordenstein (@Symbionticism) June 22, 2013
Top 10 things that have changed from #Evol1993 to #Evol2013: #2: There are many more outstanding student and postdoc presentations
— David Hillis (@David_Hillis) June 21, 2013
Dress code for #evol2013 - jeans or cargo pants plus a biology pun T shirt. Extra points for a Tilley Hat. #cantbuyclass
— P. William Hughes (@pwilliamhughes) June 23, 2013
#evol2013 #suggestion for next year: put speaker twitter handles in program so it is easy to follow up talk with questions. @Evol2013
— Casey Dunn (@caseywdunn) June 23, 2013
Young Academic Optimal Foraging in Resource Poor Environments #evol2013
— Art Covert (@artcovert) June 24, 2013
Good stuff. I've cherry-picked some entertaining bits above, but in all seriousness, the #evol2013 hashtag allowed me to follow what was going on at the meeting while I was hundreds of miles away. Not only did I benefit from seeing the trends among my colleagues, but I also got a peek at the way scientific conferences are being conducted in the future.