From 8 to 11 July, I had the pleasure of attending the 2019 Annual meeting of the American society of Animal sciences in Austin Texas. It was an exhaustively informative symposium with many opportunities to learn, share, network and be uplifted by the great work many scientists are doing in their own labs. As one of the very few delegates working on an Africa-relevant research, I was keen to learn and bring lessons that would be useful for making our own professional symposia more productive and enjoyable. Here are what I thought were the most important lessons I learned.
- A targeted focus on early career scientists: Of the four days of the symposium, one full day and many other sessions in between were devoted to providing technical training and support to young PhD students and postdocs. The training included a crash course on modeling in Animal nutrition, the use of big data in Animal sciences research and coding for animal scientists. Now the courses, as any one might expect, were not exhaustive, but provided the necessary inspiration for the young scientists on why and how they should use some of these technologies. In the middle of each of the tens of sessions every day during the four days, there were some sessions which focused on providing training and transferring skills and inspiration on various issues including the use of different technologies in research, scientific writing etc,. If you think about it, this should not have been surprising, because symposia should actually focus on creating continuation in a profession. Therefore, instead of focusing on listening to experienced people making their lengthy deliberations, focusing on training and inspiring early career scientists made sense.
- Focus on emerging technologies: I think one of the great things about being in science in our current era is that you can literally be ahead of the seniors in your profession just because you happen to learn a different, but astronomically more efficient technique. In this meeting, I was pleasantly shocked to learn what the use of big data, modeling and artificial intelligence meant to the way we do research in animal sciences. It changes every thing. You will never want to go back to the old ways, once you learn what you can do with the new tools. A crash course on these tools, provided during the symposium, is freely available here. For those who still insist on doing research the old traditional way, one of the trainers used the following very descriptive cartoon.
- Celebrating every form of success: All sessions included awarding and award winning talks where individuals who achieved great success in their own respective fields were celebrated. However, even achievements that most of us do not appreciate such as altimetric scores of published papers were recognized. This had a dual benefit of celebrating the hard workers, while sharing their lessons of success with the young.
- The use of social media for science communication taken seriously: It is true that despite a lot of useful scientific information available, a lot of people are either not using it or are very skeptical. It is, therefore, not enough for scientist to do science, but also have to communicate their sciences effectively to the end users. Publishing in scientific journals is important, but not enough. Scientists should go out there and share science in a way that can change attitudes and behaviors. With all the technology adoption problem we have in developing world, I can not over emphasis the importance of this in developing countries. Here is a person who has influenced many by sharing pertinent and powerful animal science information to her followers on social media.
Would you say these are good lessons to duplicate in our own professional meetings? Do they make sense? Let me know what you think?