This morning (Jan. 19, 2012) Vancouver (or media types and various guests) were treated to what was billed as a ‘preview’ of the AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) 2012 meeting in Vancouver from Feb. 16-20, 2012.
The preview was well organized and proceeded quite smoothly although I’m not sure about its actual purpose. Generally, a press conference of this type is called to generate excitement and interest. The idea being that the now excited and interested media will report on the preview and upcoming event and pass that excitement and interest on to their various audiences. The process doesn’t stop there.
Our now excited and interested audiences are demanding more information about this event which drives the media to report about the event itself, generating excitement and interest in all the parties that keeps growing and developing throughout all of time.
There were a few moments in the preview where excitement and interest threatened to make an appearance. Julio Montaner, Director of the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, and Karen Bakker, a Canada Research Chair in Political Ecology at the University of British Columbia, spoke with passion and fervour about their areas of expertise and for a few moments the room buzzed quietly. Happily, they will be both speaking at the AAAS 2012 meeting next month.
There was one other frisson of excitement. Richard Lee, MLA (member of the legislative assembly of British Columbia) for Burnaby North and a physicist, talked about the 200 students from schools in British Columbia (BC) who received a free pass for the meeting and a membership to the AAAS courtesy of the BC Innovation Council (BCIC) and the government of BC.
Otherwise, the preview was a bit lacklustre. They kept mentioning that Canada is world leader in some research areas without mentioning anything much other than health, specifically Montaner’s work. I was somewhat perturbed by the lack of specifics. Canada is not a world leader in many areas of science so why not mention them?
I was speaking to someone afterwards and noted that research in nanocellulose (specifically, nanocrystalline cellulose [NCC}) is an area where we shine (for now). His response was something along these lines “Not all the special interests can be mentioned.” Again, Canada doesn’t have that many research areas where it leads so, why not mention them? Of course, he’s a physicist and that area of research, nanocellulose, is more biology/chemistry.
Basically, I’m a little disappointed they didn’t use a little more imagination and creativity to produce this press event. I appreciate that the politicians and other officials need to be given their moment but something as silly as having that professor at the University of British Columbia who dresses up and performs as Charles Darwin make an appearance would have livened the proceedings.
I hope this preview is not a harbinger of the entire 2012 meeting experience. There is one ray of imagination, Meet the Scientists! events (Family Science Days), which will take place over two days. For example, there will be The Real Science of Alien Worlds, Indigenous Mathematics, Biodiversity Game: The Phylo Project, etc. (I got this information from a handout that was made available at the press conference.)
The meeting sessions themselves promise to be quite exciting because the AAAS does provide a broad exposure to all kinds of scientific research. By comparison, most scientific meetings are organized around a specialty, e. g., chemistry. (If you’re curious about the AAAS 2012 sessions, you can go here to browse the programme.)
The Vancouver Aquarium hosted this morning’s event and for that, I thank them. I got to touch a sea jelly (formerly, jelly fish) and talk to a few folks about the Arctic, the animals that live in the sea and/or on the ice, and the politics of the situation. It was, all in all, an unexpected treat.
ETA Jan. 22, 2012: I have added links to webpages for the AAAS 2012 meeting, Julio Montaner, and Karen Bakker. I also included a sentence stating where I received the information about the events for families.