Wednesday, 21 July 2010

EURO XXIV (EURO24) in Lisbon, part 2

I realise that my first blog about the conference was a little negative. Let's look at the good things about conferences.

I met a great number of people, renewing old friendships, and in a few cases, starting new ones. Conferences are great for this, especially if most of the time, you are beavering away in one place, not meeting like-minded people. I have several friends who I have only met at conferences. It is even a good place to see friends from other parts of the U.K.. Of course, one shouldn't really admit that one goes to conferences to meet people; as far as our paymasters are concerned, we go to present our research work and to listen to other people present their research work.

That's the theory. In practice, many of the presenters are there to "Tick the box" of conference presentation. There is not enough time to discuss the material in depth in the sessions. And people work in tight little niches. So the chances are that you won't get many questions that stir new ideas.

But it was good to be part of this conference. Jim Cochran gave an excellent plenary session about teaching O.R. and making it interesting. The best attended session that I went to was on financial optimization and had some good papers. The worst for attendance was on sustainable development ("we are working on sustainable development for developing countries. To calibrate our model, we are using Luxembourg.") A good number turned up to a session on graphs and networks, but fewer were interested in water systems. And in all these, there were interesting models being discussed.

The conference organisers had excellent catering, apart from the reception. Endless coffee, chilled bottled water, fruit juice or squash, and biscuits to eat. Lunch was one of the easiest conference lunches I have known -- huge buffet tables, so very little queueing.

Springer had a demonstration of their touch-screen library, with 200 books available. All could be read and re-read on screen, though I wonder how long before their text books are on an electronic book?

The sun shone; Lisbon is beautiful, though the university campus could do with more effort clearing rubbish and repairing pavements. I wondered why there were so many police on the campus.

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