Tim's review of IGARSS07, Barcelona
Date: 23rd to 27th July 2007
Venue: International Conference Centre, Barcelona
Alternative titles for this review:
"Lessons in how not to run a conference"
"Why I won’t be going to another IGARSS conference for quite some time"
Barcelona – beautiful (hot!) – keen to go back
Conference - Crap venue and crap venue staff. Quality of what I heard and saw – very mixed.
Cost: Euro 750 (they didn’t have my pre-registration…)
What did I get for my money?: Not a lot. I got a beach towel, a backpack, a concert (which WAS a highlight). I’m struggling to think what else I gained from it. I was extremely disappointed.
Starting at the beginning:
The website (http://www.igarss07.org/frontal/Inicio.asp):
This left a lot to be desired. Why was there not a separate section for poster presenters on the website, given the ‘value’ IEEE suggests it places in interaction sessions. Where was the poster information? Why were the poster dimensions (once found) switched round at the last minute (and without any apology to those who might have already printed theirs)?
I thought I had pre-registered for the conference before the full fee came into force, but clearly not (I certainly went through the motions on the website, but nothing seemed to be recorded). When I got to Barcelona there was no record of my ‘registration’. So I ended up paying full whack (it was either that or turn around and go home again…).
The venue was a building which must have been designed by a robot for robots - it certainly wasn’t designed with humans in mind. The entrance hall was a vast wasteland of space and would have been more entertaining for the delegates if space was given over in it to a roller skating rink or an indoor go-kart track (at least then I could have vented my rage in a displacement activitiy…).
Why was there so little seating outside the session rooms? I calculate it could have seated 50 to 70 delegates at most. Why did we have to always stand in the exhibition hall where refreshments were served? Surely a main feature of a conference is for delegates to meet up informally outside of the formal presentations to discuss topics of mutual interest and common research projects. Seating was effectively non-existent. Why was this so difficult to provide?
Why was there not enough space in the wifi room and why was ‘free’ wifi not available throughout the venue? Surely conference organisers must know by now that a huge number of delegates will want to access the internet and email this way.
Why was there only 20 minutes allocated to coffee/refreshment in the mornings and afternoons? With a conference of some 1000 delegates plus, this led to a major scrum around the (only two) refreshment stands. I tried to get a glass of orange juice for my breastfeeding wife (also a conference delegate) and was told in no uncertain terms to wait until 4:00. It was 3:57! What difference does it make? And what is it with conference venues such as this that think their delegates are too stupid to be able to serve refreshments for themselves?
What’s wrong with providing continuous coffee (or at least a place at the venue where one could buy it)? What’s the problem? Why couldn’t I buy breakfast at the venue? (or at the Diagonal Mar shopping centre across the road – it didn’t open till 9:00 am after papers had started).
Why were there were no drinking water fountains? If you didn’t stash away several bottles of the water provided at the refreshment ‘scrums’ before the other delegates did (or bring your own – but why should you?) you were in for a seriously parched experience.
Why were there were no baby changing facilities? Surely it’s not beyond the wit of an international conference venue to that expect some conference delegates to turn up with kids.
Why do we have to buy our own lunch at these gigs? Surely it’s not too much money to provide simple food as part of the fee. Or at least a place at the venue where we can buy it? Why do we have to traipse out to a shopping centre to get it?
Technical programme and support:
I attended mainly Hyperspectral/Optical sessions so I can't vouch for all sessions (its mega parallel and overly dominated by SAR). But why do I get the impression that that it's the same old faces from some fairly familiar organisations that get the key presentation slots at IGARSS meetings only to traipse out similar sounding talks? (I went to Denver, too). Does it have more to do with conference corporate sponsorship and less to do with academic quality, I wonder? Why did Charlie Kaufman, leader or THE next hyperspectral sensor to be launched into space (EnMAP) get a poster. Surely, we should have been hearing, and discussing, the impact of last minute design changes on this instrument? Baffling (and appalling).
On that theme, what’s the selection process? Who decides?
IEEE needs to come down heavy on oral no-shows. There were far too many. In the absence of a legitimate and valid excuse there needs to be sanctions put in place (these could range from only poster acceptances for three subsequent IGARSS meetings, to castration - my current mood tends to favour the latter...).
Why were some sessions cancelled at the last minute?
Why were some sessions so short? The Wetlands session was just three papers long but there were more than adequate wetland/aquatic studies which were presented as posters which could have (and should have) been promoted to oral presentations to make this session worthwhile. People have paid a lot of money to attend the conference… make it worth their while.
Make your delegates feel special! If a delegate (not me, someone I met) loses his poster roll with poster inside for presentation that day, help him find it! If he has it on a pen drive help him to print it out! Don’t just suggest that he could go downtown to find somewhere to print it, but that it might take 3 days! He’s paid a lot of money to come to your city and conference – that should be respected.
Velcro for posters - why wasn't it available? Why did we have to use selotape?
Whew! I feel better already… If you have any comments on what’s written here don’t send them to me! Send them to the organisers of the next meeting in Boston [link here]. Please accept my apologies but I won’t be attending....