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Train of Thought...
May 2009 -Growing Up

'tis all done and dusted now. The Darwin ASM has been consigned to the history books. I found the Darwin experience a very positive one, even if the weather was rather trying.

As the dust settles, how will history judge the Darwin ASM? What should we be looking at in order to gauge the success of any meeting? The social aspects of the gathering are very important and I believe a good time was had by all on that score. There was a great deal of inspiration and motivation on tap and I am confident most left Darwin inspired and eager to nurture ideas seeded during the weekend. New networks were developed between labs, individuals and even countries. We are all richer for that. The Trade were available to us and provided a major resource even without considering their financial support. It would not be stretching it to say that without the Trade there would not be an ASM as we know it.

These are all valid markers of a successful meeting, but will they provide more than a fleeting memory? The real success of the meeting should rather be measured by things that flow from it. Top on my list, in no particular order, would be:

  1. How many initiatives from the meeting have been implemented and brought to fruition?
  2. How effectively have deficiencies noted at the ASM and AGM been rectified?
  3. How have the networks developed or strengthened at the meeting developed over the time since the meeting? These could be between individuals, between labs or between countries.
  4. How many presentations have been converted to publications since the meeting?

These are all tangible outcomes that should flow from a successful meeting. In particular, with reference to the 4th point above, I wonder should we be maintaining a register of publications by Society members? This would, in years to come, provide a valuable and interesting history of our profession as well as providing a benchmark for judging our ASM's. Monitoring such outcomes would clearly differentiate between a successful meeting of a professional society and a talkfest.

The Darwin meeting also marked a milestone in the Society's growth and development. The need to run concurrent poster and oral sessions as a consequence of the large number of abstracts submitted speaks highly of the continued maturing of both the society and our profession. Of particular gratification to me was the number of new faces making presentations.

The running of concurrent sessions can be seen as a negative since delegates are not able to get to all the presentations. Yes, it can be frustrating and yes, I had to miss a session due to a conflict with TSANZ programming. I am prepared to accept that frustration as a small price to pay for the vigour evidenced by the volume of active and independent research being prosecuted by our members. Life is about choices and in future we will need to be prepared to make their choices. This means, however, that delegates need good information ahead of the meeting on which to base these choices. Abstract quality becomes even more important than it is now; presentations may need to be themed; perhaps extended abstracts could be provided for archiving on the web-site after the meeting; perhaps PDF's of posters and slide sets could be archived on the web-site or be made available on request. There are many options to facilitate this information flow.

There is already talk of Brisbane celebrating the 30th birthday of the Society. Whilst that is a great milestone, I think the quantity of research presented at Darwin marks an even greater milestone in the growth of our profession.

'til next time,

K

May, 2009

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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