21 June 2012
Conference posters are summaries.
Poster are condensed versions of a scientific story. Posters should be something that you can walk someone through in a few minutes. Posters should be self contained: everything is there in one place.
But many research stories are complex. This means that you are often pressed for space on a poster, even if the conference organizers have generously sized poster boards. If you look at the critiques on this blog, you’ll see that one of the most common complaints I have is “crowded.”
Why, oh why, would you ever put an abstract on a poster?
Abstracts are useful things for scientific papers: they allow you to get the gist of a story and figure out if the whole paper is worth reading. They are useful for conference booklets for the same reason.
But if you’re standing at a poster... you don’t need to look at an abstract to whether to look at the poster. You can look at the poster itself.
This seems to arise out of the unrelenting desire to make everything follow the standard format of academic papers. But posters are not papers.
Now, some conferences deliberately instruct poster presenters to put conference abstracts on their posters. In the past, I have done this because I want to follow instructions. They’re usually there for a reason. But I have had it with that. I’m going rogue. Because it’s a rule without consequences. Nobody ever checks posters.
Conference organizers, I’m asking you nicely this one time: stop telling people to put abstracts on posters.
Putting an abstract on a conference poster is liking writing a haiku about a limerick.
Breaking the hourglass for headlines that holler
Photo by elod beregszaszi on Flickr; used under a Creative Commons license.