Dear Colleagues,
June 16, 2011 10:32 AM   Subscribe

I'm presenting a poster at the big, serious developmental biology meeting next month in Chicago. I checked the final program today, only to find that my poster is going to be about 5 feet away from one by from the freakin' Discovery Institute.

So this freaks me out a fair bit, as my policy for creationists/ID people is to just ignore ignore ignore all the nonsense and the magical thinking. But this guy is notoriously combative and vocal. I really don't want to be anywhere near anything that might involve such discussions, let alone ones that may get heated with the fire of firery nerd rage.
Most importantly, I really, really want to be able to present my work without any stupid strawmen circuses (of which there are plenty in real science, thank you) going on within a 10 foot radius.
What do I do? Write to the organizers and ask them to consider the abstract carefully again and possibly get him to withdraw it? Arm my self with pushpins and hope for the best?
If he really shows up and gets any attention, is there anything I can do to make sure that I get my work out there with minimal interference?
In short, help? is there anything I can do about this?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
how is it a "serious developmental biology meeting " if the Discovery Institute is also presenting ?

Or is it floor space, which anyone off the street can buy ?
posted by k5.user at 10:35 AM on June 16, 2011 [4 favorites]

The good news is that posters at large meetings are of almost no consequence. Hell, if someone annoying is across from you you'll get more attention as people feign interest in your poster to avoid dealing with that jerk. Sure, you can write the organizers and ask to be moved to another section or next to a colleague of yours. They likely have unused spots, but won't want to re-print programs.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 10:47 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

Don't ask the organizers about reviewing his abstract - that will get you into hot water, since they presumably did review his application and probably had their own little contretemps over it. You don't want to make waves with those folks because they're probably journal and grant reviewers.

What are your usual strategies for presenting your work? At what point are you in your career? Will there be others from your school/program there? Can you muster a list of friendly professional connections who will visit you at your poster to chat? What is your goal in terms of getting your work seen? Is this your Big Important Project or is it more of a "forming you as a scholar by presenting a poster" thing?

I'd take the high road and plan to ignore the dude. Don't confront unless you have a track record of successful interventions like that (like if you're a combative, verbally adept senior scholar). Early in your career, getting into a fracas will do more harm than good. If he tries to start something (does your work relate to his? are titles posted in the program yet?) give short, noncommittal responses or draw him out and let him talk. If he has to talk, make him talk about his "work". If he's blahblahing at a respectable conference and you're being quiet, he will look like a fool and you won't.
posted by Frowner at 10:49 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]

My experience with poster sessions is that I rarely have time to pay attention to other people's posters or what is going on around them. Poster sessions are like the speed dating of scholarly communication. Don't go looking for trouble, work your own spot, and push your ideas rather than getting worked up about theirs. You are there to present, not consume.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:50 AM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]

Write to the organizers and ask them to consider the abstract carefully again and possibly get him to withdraw it?

For most biological conferences, there is only minimal review of poster submissions, which is part of why they mean so little (sorry). I don't think it's appropriate to ask for this guy's to have an extra level of review.

Sometimes someone next to you gets a lot of attention and you don't. Sometimes it happens the other way around. You just have to go with the flow. I think you would lose more by moving your poster from its assigned place where people might be looking for it.

Don't engage crazy creationist/intelligent design dude, obviously.
posted by grouse at 11:02 AM on June 16, 2011

(I'm also wondering what kind of serious scientific meeting let those guys in.) But like everyone else has said, poster sessions are pretty low-impact. Generally people scan the program for posters they're specifically interested in and talk to those authors, then just cruise the rest of the floor quickly. I don't think you'll lose any customers from being next to Crank Guy. In fact, you may get some extra people surreptitiously asking if anything interesting has happened next door.
posted by Quietgal at 11:20 AM on June 16, 2011

Continue to ignore the Discovery Institute.

If the guy's abstract is utter crap scientifically, politely complain about it after the conference to the SDB -- not because it's the from Discovery Institute, but because peer review is supposed ensure that certain standards are maintained.

Surely you see that it would be unfair to reject an abstract for a poster presentation based on scorn for the scientific reputation and/or political agenda of the institution.
posted by desuetude at 12:02 PM on June 16, 2011

Troll back. Your poster title is "Differential expression of Hoxa2 and srGAP in the blastocyst regulates religious belief in adults", right?
posted by cromagnon at 4:39 PM on June 16, 2011

In my experience presenting posters at scientific conferences, I've had the best response by asking people who do similar work or who I want to meet to come see my poster. This way I get really good feedback from experts, and everything else is a bonus. Ignore the others, talk to the person in front of you, and you'll be fine.
posted by dhruva at 4:43 PM on June 16, 2011

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