15 August 2011

The view from Austin, part 2: Ecological Society of America meeting, 2011

One thing I rather like about the Ecological Society of America meeting in theory was that it had a “late breaking” poster session. These are posters whose abstracts were submitted late, after the deadline for oral presentations.

A lot of people took advantage of this opportunity. The program book listed 201 poster titles for the late breaking poster session, whereas none of the regular poster sessions the previous four days cracked 200.

But people presenting posters that Friday morning kind of got screwed.

First, the conference lasts only a half day on Friday. Thanks to things like hotel check-out times and plane flights, a lot of people had already left. Sad, but perhaps unavoidable.

What might have been avoidable was that unlike the regular poster sessions Monday through Friday, which had about an hour and a half where there were no regular PowerPoint talks, there were a full slate of talks going on simultaneously with the late breaking poster session.

I know that the people who submitted the posters did so late, and should be thankful for the chance to present at all, but it seems needlessly cruel to put that poster session against competition from talks. It was disheartening to walk into the conference center to see those last few posters.

In my previous post from ESA, I bemoaned that many posters were too small for their space. One culprit behind this was recycling posters from a previous meeting. Another was the cost involved in making larger posters.

And continuing on from last time...

The Comic Sans name and shame campaign!

Liu and colleagues had Comic Sans on their poster, “Host-specific pathogens shape abundances of phylogenetically related tree species.” Luckily, it was only in the title.

In contrast, De Steven and Gramling set everything on their poster, “Diverse wetland restoration approaches under working-lands programs in the Southeastern U.S.: implications for ecosystem services” in Comic Sans.

There may have been less of the dreaded typeface at ESA than at other conferences. Maybe there will be none in Portland?

Related posts

The view from Austin: Ecological Society of America meeting, 2011


Carl Wonders said...

Kudos on your calling-out of authors' use of Comic Sans. I can't for the life of me understand why it's become a font of choice for so many. I even saw a Nobel Laureate present a talk in Comic Sans once!

Zen Faulkes said...

Comic Sans has a certain friendly, albeit clueless, charm - sort of like a village idiot. But as friendly as both may be, you want something smarter after a while.

travelingeneticist said...

As long as it's not Times. Serif fonts are very hard to read on posters and in talks.

Zen Faulkes said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Zen Faulkes said...

My comments on the serif versus san serif debate are here:


Small type is a bigger problem than serif type.

Marcia Hoang said...

Hi, my name is Marcia Hoang and I designed the poster for Dan Brooks from the Houston Museum of Natural Science about Invasive Waterfowl. Dan told me that you came by and asked if you could post a pic of the poster on your blog. I would be more than happy to hear what you think of it. Please post it if you'd like and you can link back to my portfolio site too if you wish at marciahoang.com

Carl Wonders said...

I suppose comic sans has a friendly charm to it, but I'm unsure as to why you would want your poster to look like your 8 year old did it...

As for serif/sans serif, I agree with the quote you put in your post: "Use a non-serif font (e.g., Helvetica) for title and headings and a serif font (e.g., Palatino) for body text (serif-style fonts are much easier to read at smaller font sizes)."

...with the caveat that you shouldn't be using small fonts in large blocks of text in the first place (i.e., no serif fonts).