Conferences are another important part of a scientific research career. Science does not proceed in a vacuum. Scientists need to know about research that other scientists produce - as well as other things such as what works, what does't work, new tools available, or new job opportunities. Similarly, scientists need to tell other people about their research to gain publicity, defend their ideas, and be visible. In addition to just exchanging information, getting together helps to develop professional relationships, and direct discussions at conferences often lead to new research collaborations, grant proposals, scientific articles, etc.
Last year, there was one large international BCI conference, which was hosted by the BCI group in Berlin. The "Links" section of this page has links to the lab and to online talks from that conference. This year, we already had the First TOBI Workshop in Graz in Feb. 2010. About 135 people attended. There will be another international BCI conference beginning on May 31 that will be about twice as large. More information can be found elsewhere on this website.
What do people do at these conferences? Most conferences include these elements:
1) Talks. Scientists present a specific research study, a series of studies, a new idea or model, an argument or perspective, a review of work across different groups relating to a specific research direction, etc. These talks are usually followed by a brief question and answer session.
2) Posters. Scientists will bring posters with text, pictures, and sketches that describe their work. The conference organizers provide space where conference attendees can mount their posters, and the schedule includes "poster sessions" in which people will walk around the poster area, view different posters, and discuss them with their authors.
3) Discussion. Scientists will talk about one of the talks, the posters, or a specific topic that is usually announced ahead of time. Sometimes, the schedule will include discussion periods. These discussions may involve smaller groups. For example, panels or workshops may discuss specific topics that relate to a larger theme of the conference, and include experts in those topics.
Of course, regardless of the schedule, a lot of discussion just happens informally, such as during poster sessions, after talks, during coffee breaks, of just bumping in to people in the lobby. Conference attendees will also meet for lunch, dinner, and other typical social events. Many people at conferences are personal friends and/or current or former co-workers or collaborators, and are happy to meet and catch up.
4) Satellite events. Many conference feature satellite events. These are events that are not officially part of the conference, but may be of interest to conference attendees and address related issues. Satellite events usually occur just before or after the conference. These events may include the above elements like talks, posters, and discussions. Some satellite events are etraining events, where people can learn specific advanced material such as the latest new technologies in brain imagine or new drugs to treat certain disroderes.
Scientists have mixed feelings about conferences. On the one hand, they are essential events in a research career for many reasons noted above. Aside from professional reasons, it can be fun to travel and to see old friends, and learning about the latest research is fun to people who really enjoy it. On the other hand, conferences take a lot of time. They usuall last a few days. Plus, you have the added time of traveling, preparing, and recovering. Hence, most experienced scientists are very selective about the conferences they attend, and try to get the most benefit out of each one.