conferences

aloisia schmid a-schmi at uiuc.edu
Sun Oct 5 14:45:28 EST 1997


In article <616n4c$njo at omnifest.uwm.edu>, pbowne at omnifest.uwm.edu
(Patricia S. Bowne) wrote:

> The posts about meetings and whether people get much
> out of them are really interesting, though I guess I
> missed the original posting asking about the topic.
> 
> I have to say that my experience is and has been very
> different from Alice's (with the exception of having said
> things that seemed stupid upon reflection :-)  ). I did
> not find that the men I went with were more single-minded
> or more aggressive, or that they were competing with one
> another -- at least not any more than the women. Nor dod
> I meet women who were interested in talking about their
> home lives.
> 
> I have had wretched experiences at meetings -- I remember
> one where I got so pissed-off that I began assigning dollar
> amounts to the dignitaries I met and adding them up to see
> if I was recouping the registration fee. That was before I
> knew anybody in the field. After a few years, though, I 
> knew either the people or the names, and was able to just
> go up and introduce myself with a question about people's
> work. Almost everyone was nice enough to have a short
> conversation, in that case. I'd agree, however, that it
> isn't a venue in which to make friends; after you've said
> what you have to say, people want to go talk to someone else.
> The sustained conversations I saw were debates on theoretical 
> issues, where people could be thinking out new ideas as they
> talked and thereby provide fresh grist for the mill.
> 
> Now I attend different kinds of meetings, which I never even
> knew existed when I was in research. Biology teaching 
> associations have lots of meetings and they are similar in
> their dynamic to an extent, but much more open in the types
> of discussions. People don't expect you to have read their
> papers (educational researchers in science teaching are amazingly
> humble this way, and science teachers are amazingly arrogant --
> would any of us set out to earn our living in a lab without 
> having read one relevant research paper?). Conversations are
> less content-centered, people want to hear a lot more of other
> folks' anecdotal experiences, and there are workshops which allow
> you to work and talk with others for an extended amount of time.
> 
> Still, even at these friendly meetings there are 'in' and 'peripheral'
> groups. I don't think it's gender related, it just has to do with
> how many people you know and whether they're running the organization.
> Sometimes I find myself more motivated by pique at being in the
> peripheral group than I would be by more direct support. I think we
> all need to be peripheral sometimes. It's a very 'free' position
> from which to criticize and exercise your brain without feeling
> responsible for the results -- a luxury, in fact! But best enjoyed
> when you know the names of a few good local restaurants, and have
> a good book in your briefcase.  ;-)
> 
> Pat Bowne

I think Pat makes an interesting point---however, it sounds like her
exp[eriences with RESEARCH meetings were similar to mine.  The teaching
meetings are less competitive and less aggressive.  But that is so
different---at a 
teaching conference there is little competition between attendees.  You
are all there to learn from each other and not to scoop one another and
not necessarily to prove one another right or wrong about a research
question on which you might disagree.  I think it is totally cool that
there are fields in which it is the norm to be accepting and respectful of
one another, but I think Pat too, has had the experience at research
conferences where people are there NOT to be supportive, but to make names
for themselves, or to see to it that their established reputations
remained on top of the field.  

The woman from The New Scientist though, I THINK was asking about research
conferences.  Not all research conferences are the same either---the one I
went to is pretty well known as being pretty competitive.  "Macho" is the
way one friend put it.  

At any rate, I will readily admit that as I have been in the field longer
and gotten to know the literature better, that i am feeling more secure in
what I know....but doubt that I will EVER be in a position of
self-satusfaction or ease that alot of the men I see at these conferences
seem to enjoy as a matter of 
course....

                        alice



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