Monday, August 8, 2016
How to Run a Conference
I go to quite a lot of scientific conferences - maybe 10-15 per year - and they all tend to be in posh hotels with entry restricted to those able to find the registration fee, which normally is hundreds of dollars, and which pays for renting the conference room at the posh hotel, speaker travel, exorbitant cookies etc.
Sometimes there are not many people there. I remember once flying all the way over from France to Seattle to give a talk to about 10 people. But many more than that would have been interested - its just that they were blocked by the gnashing costs. A very recent conference I was at had trouble attracting enough attendees, even though I know dozens of young local scientists would have liked to attend.
So here's what to do (for some of the conferences, at least):
(a) stop holding conferences in posh hotels - hold them in university lecture halls.
(b) stop providing free meals
(c) stop providing free coffee and cookies
(d) stop funding speaker travel
(e) reduce the registration costs as the conference approaches if there are not enough attendees
(f) let in all students free
Then conferences would be what they really should be: a transmission of passion and knowledge to an enthusiastic and inspired young audience.