Today I celebrate not going on a business trip by heading down to Jersey. I will cross the river, despite the “swamp gas” misgivings, because I managed to get out of having to go on what promised to be a god-awful trip. It would have been yet another conference trip with the same 2,500 participants, same presentations and gossiping in the city of sin. Been there, done that. Big time. It would have been another set of the same receptions and discussion points which surprisingly some attendees take as serious worktime. Seriously. Many conference attendees never even step foot in a session but instead just go to every single reception, networking soiree and the like and call that working really hard. Really? I can do without the bad wine, meaningless conversations and the same old gripes. It’s like some people save up all their venting for conferences. Some people will even complain about the schwag..namely, that they are not getting enough of it. I have enough pens and umbrellas and bottle openers. Thank you. Question is -if a Conference occurs in a glitzy locale will anyone attend any session anyway-even if sessions are just mere repetitions from previous conferences?
Some conferences in the HIV/AIDS field started off as community-driven (especially by those HIV positive) or academic conferences in science and academia, formal events where researchers present results, workshops, and other activities. But other than the latest recent biomedical advances (in the last three years) things have been static in terms of advancements and these conferences became more like trade/business conferences where there was wider participation and providing the opportunity for business people (i.e pharmaceuticals) and the general public alike to network and learn more about topics of interest through workshops, viewing whitepaper presentations (meaning no peer review or rigorous methodologies), and meeting vendors of similar or related services. How can I put this nicely? In a way, these so-called community or academic conferences have becomes a way for everyone to “sell” a product. Every concern you turn someone is either touting their program, their organization, themselves as the must have product. And then we wonder why thirty years into an epidemic we have not progressed as far and still have close to 50,000 new HIV infections each year in the United States.
So, for today: I am saying “no” to attending yet another conferences with the same old same old and am heading south to learn a little more about our Jersey neighbors and to get Octoberfest started! For those that know me-that is a huge step for this die-hard New Yorker. So, today I celebrate not attending yet another conference-beer in hand!