** If you are trying to avoid carbs, you are totally screwed during conference breaks. There are cookies, granola bars, and fruits. As for beverages, coffee and tea. I love it how it’s all caffeine and sugar, as if to imply, “We know this $hit is so boring, there’s not way you will staying awake without stimulants. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. This fix should stave off the yawns for the next 2 hours.”

** I am, yet again, looking over a veritable sea of grey male heads. Some people glance at me, somewhat bemused, trying to remember where they know me from (hint: this same conference) and deciding if I am worth chatting with. Whenever I feel old amidst all my chirpy students, I should attend a conference; there is no way there to feel old (or be considered seriously).

** There is a conference to which I sometimes submit work and where I was a program-committee member several times. A new incarnation of the conference has been announced, and it’s in Europe. There are zero women to be found on all the committees together. Unfortunately, this is not at all surprising. As much as I appreciate my European colleagues, they are actually (on average) worse regarding unconscious sexist bias than their American counterparts. If you mention the dearth of women to them, they will all jump to tell you that only quality matters, that they are of course not biased but that the (complete!) absence of women means there aren’t any good ones anyway (in reality, what it means that no one can think of a woman off the top of their head). And that sexism is only a problem us Americans have, while it’s pure meritocracy in Europe. I apologize if I inadvertently offended European readers, but I have honestly heard this same spiel many, many times, from male colleagues from Germany, Austria, UK, France, Italy…  It’s hard to change things when people think there is no problem at all.

** What I need to remind myself of is that being recognized for one’s accomplishments is nice, but ultimately fleeting. To zeroth order, recognition is also largely meaningless; it is only meaningful to first and higher orders, when it leads to new opportunities: for collaboration, for funding, for doing more science. The enjoyment of doing science and doing it well should be its own reward; it isn’t, because I am human and suffer from all the usual human crap, but it should be. How’s that for a New Year’s resolution?

** A time and money waster: a workshop on how to successfully navigate academic promotions given by a person who was never an academic. Why the hell do we give money to these people? Because obviously somebody does, else they would not be giving workshops and selling books and whatnot. I am an academic, and you should still not listen to what I have to say about how to get a promotion if you are in a different country, or even at a different type of institution or a field other than STEM. What, when someone has the gall to require to be paid for advice, we assume the advice somehow automatically has merit? WTF.

** There is an undergrad who will need some accommodation with exams and homework on account of his temporary disability, which is fine. What’s not fine is that roughly 10 faculty and staff (me among them) involved in the advising and/or teaching of the student are getting fairly frequent, lengthy messages with excruciatingly detailed medical information on the course of treatment. I don’t want to sound heartless, but this is definitely TMI and is totally unnecessary. It seems that there is a level of exhibitionism to this. I bet all the recipients are thinking, like I am, that it’s too much, but no one is saying anything because who wants to appear like they are blowing off a student who needs help? But I really don’t need (or want) details on medial protocols and treatment plans and really lots of very personal information. Am I an awful person for wishing I were left out of all this oversharing, that there is such a thing as too personal and that it has no place in a professional or academic interaction?

Which brings me to…

** Like most people, I have several email accounts. One for work, one for the kids’ extracurriculars and online shopping, a couple associated with blog(s), and a gmail all-purpose one which I mostly avoid as it’s, sadly, inundated with emails intended for identically named individuals from my home country. In one case, I told the person who kept sending stuff aimed at my doppelganger that I was not the intended recipient, to which they kept insisting that I actually am who I am not and that I am a bad for person for asking to take me off the goddamn list.

Anyhow. I get unsolicited emails, mostly from vendors, on the extracurriculars-and-shopping account. I really don’t mind them; I just completely ignore them.

What I hate, hate, HATE are the time-wasting emails from people who know me. It is too damn easy to shoot off an email.. You know how moms say (well, some moms, anyway), “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything?” Maybe we should teach people “If you don’t have anything that’s important to the recipient to say, then don’t write a goddamn email. If unsure of importance to the recipient, then err on the side of NOT emailing.”

** I talked briefly with a program manager. I thought I was smiling, he said I looked grumpy. Did he expect I would be unpleasant since he hadn’t funded my proposal? Or maybe I just have a bitchy resting face.



  1. With regards to email grumps, you know what’s cluttering up my inbox now? Lengthy detailed advertisements and pleas for abstract submission, from the organizers, to Every Single Session in (Subdiscipline Name Here) at Huge National (Field-Of-Science Name Here) Society’s Annual Meeting- seemingly sent out to every society member affiliated with the organization’s subsection for those subdiscipline. Since I work across several subdisciplines, I’ve probably gotten 200 emails in the past week pitching “submit your abstract now to our sure-to-be-exciting session!” You know what? I can go to the society meeting’s web site, and easily find of see the same detailed session descriptions and abstract deadlines there… if I have an abstract to submit, and it fits your session, I’ll do so without needing the motivation of an email grovel from you and 100 other of your fellow session chairs… this seems to be a new thing, at least in terms of its sheer extent.

    xykademiqz, does the same thing happen in your discipline?

  2. My main society meeting(s) haven’t gotten bad, but there are several mega meetings (with steep registration fees and large industrial presence/trade shows) that have gone off the deep end and, as you say, spam with endless solicitations for each special session…

  3. Regarding workshop presenters: They are parasites on the body academic.

    Just last Friday I was at a workshop where somebody was invited to give a talk on teaching. I’m pretty sure they paid him for this keynote speech, or at least covered his travel expenses. What did he do with his talk? He promoted something that he’s making money off of.

    I want to get into a line of work where other people will pay me to promote what I’m selling.

  4. Oh, and I’ve always heard it referred to as “Resting Bitch Face”, not “Bitchy Resting Face.” Anyway, related to that, a new take on a new Avenger:

  5. re: the undergrad, I actually just tell them I don’t need to know the details, the disabilities office will tell me what accommodations need to be made, which is all I need to know.

    Sympathies with your conference woes.

  6. yeah, I actually hate attending conferences myself. They force you to waste tons of time with traveling and with the way they are scheduled with little actual content on each day–the rest is filler or is just organized for vendors to try to sell you their stuff. Also, the reality is that scientists tend to be socially awkward as well as super busy and overworked—chatting up scientists you don’t already know at meetings is pretty tough work! yet this is the main purpose of attending a meeting in my opinion.
    My pet peeves: The conf centers and hotels always block your wifi hotspot so a normal thing like checking your own email or working becomes a massive pain. The conf center or hotel rooms are enormous and drafty, events and symposia are separated from each other by miles of empty hallways so you are forced to constantly hike all over the place and you rarely run into other attendees, and all rooms are always kept super cold even in the summer so it is physically painful to spend much time at the meeting.
    I like the plenary talks and poster sessions because it is a chance to talk with other scientists and students. It’s nice for students to give talks in workshops but I personally have never learned anything from a 10 min talk. I avoid the product displays, sales reps, and career workshops.
    In my dreams, all conferences would be small (200 people), 2 days only, consisting of wall to wall plenary talks and poster sessions and nothing else, and held in a small hotel with good tech services and food services, located near a major airport.

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