We are less than a week away from the start of a massive experiment: the SuperJEDI conference, to be held from 30 June – 9 July in Mauritius. This conference will bring together around 45 scientists from around the world in a re-imagining of the scientific conference. With very few talks, the emphasis at SuperJEDI will be on new research, new collaborations and new ideas.
Let’s be honest, except for something like TED, most conferences feature long, coma-inducing sessions filled with talks that range from mildly interesting to deathly dull. Most people agree that the most important and interesting parts of most conferences happen in between the talks at tea, lunch, dinner and over drinks.
So why do we persist with the part that isn’t working?
Most conferences are based around contributed talks because that is how it has always been done, because it is low risk and because funding bodies often demand that participants give a talk in order to get funding. As a result, I have often heard participants say “OK, now my talk is done. Now we can party”.
Instead the idea behind SuperJEDI is to focus on the good stuff of conferences: two-way communication, exploration and discovery. We want to encourage people to meet people from outside their discipline, ask stupid questions and start new collaborations. My hope is that ten years from now, a whole bunch of people can point to SuperJEDI as the thing that started a fruitful new collaboration, a new line of research or simply the discovery of Mauritius – one of the SKA partner countries – as a long-term partner for astronomy. We want to ‘flip’ the conference.
The concept for SuperJEDI arose out of the JEDI workshops which aim to teach students how to do research by actually doing research rather than simply talking about it. The focus is also on working in teams and on networking, rather than individualistic brilliance. The ‘Super’ refers to the fact that this time the conference is aimed primarily at postdocs and faculty, and in this respect it is a big and exciting experiment!
More coming up during the conference…