12 August 2010

Digital disasters

Michele Sullivan is a poster evangelist. She has a brilliant discussion of the joys of poster sessions:

Here are scientists just being themselves – taking pictures of friends proudly displaying their “babies,” unconcerned about microphones or accents, uninhibited by the formality of speaking before a crowd, congratulating the sharp conclusion, questioning the flawed method, pushing for the truth.

...and a much needed check on an experimental format: the digital poster session.

In almost 10 years of medical reporting, this is the first 100% digital poster session I’ve attended, and I have to say it was a sad sight.

This is the second time I’ve heard about a digital poster session. The first was from two colleagues in my department, who went to a small regional meeting (that shall remain nameless) earlier this year.

It was a disaster.

The were too many organizational problems in the set-up of the digital poster session to list, so I’ll just name one. The projector they used to show the posters was apparently not very good, and they projected on a wall rather than a screen, rendering almost everything unreadable. Nobody showed up for either the viewing or to answer questions.

Both my colleagues said it wasn’t worth their time.

I’m all in favour of innovation, but digital poster sessions need much more thought and tweaking before they can replace the traditional poster sessions. The essence of a poster session is the face to face, the personal. You have to corral the presenters and the viewers in the same room for the thing to work.

And you really need to read the rest of Michele’s post if you haven’t done so already.

Related links

Empty room

Photo by Brian Hathcock on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.

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