As an insider it is often difficult to have an objective viewpoint on the success of a meeting. You work hard to pull together a solid agenda – one that balances good scientific presentations, information on best practices in knowledge translation and non-scientific perspectives with networking opportunities. But when you get it right, you know.
Listening to the buzz in the corridors and in the lunch lineups, it was easy to identify the highlights of SCN’s 2009 annual meeting held in Montreal last week – the panel on patient perspectives of stem cell therapies stimulated a lot of discussion, as did Matthew Nisbet’s keynote address on framing within science communications, Guy Sauvageau’s acceptance of the Till & McCulloch Award and his lecture on expanding hematopoietic stem cells and Freda Miller’s scientific presentation on her research on stem cells to treat spinal cord injury.
But one sentiment that was expressed many times, by many attendees was just how the SCN annual conference is different from most stem cell research events. It’s not that the science, the panel discussions, the venue or even the food is better. If it can be summarized in a single word,that word is “community”. This is a community that supports the development of new talent by providing opportunities for researchers in training to present alongside internationally-recognized leaders and to get feedback at the peer level. It fosters collaboration by allowing time for people to mix and mingle in an informal way – pub night is consistently the best attended AGM event by industry reps, trainees and principal investigators – more than one sale, job and lab connection has been made over the rim of a beer glass.
Most importantly perhaps, AGM attendees say that the size of the meeting is critically important. At just under 400 people, it’s large enough that you can meet someone new, but small enough to have plenty of familiar names and faces. It’s comfortable and it is this comfort that creates a great community and contributes to great research. It’s one of the reasons Canadians continue to lead the field.
–Lisa Willemse, Stem Cell Network
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