It is not difficult, at least for me, to get inspired by a scientific conference and that inspiration can come in many forms. Conferences can be large so large you are in awe of the scale of involvement in your research community, they can be small indeed so small that you feel honoured to be engaged in a specialist field – better still is the one that is just right. A conference I attended last week was a ‘just right’ conference, busy enough to give a sense of the community, small enough to connect with everything going on. It is true that science conferences can often be dry and dull experiences with a feeling everyone is clutching the good new stuff to their chests in secrecy, not so this one where the atmosphere was welcome and sharing.
I am talking about the Targeting Cancer conference held at the Celtic Manor Resort (the one in Newport, South Wales that hosted a certain Rider Cup golf contest one year), and was among other things launching the new European Cancer Stem Cell Research Institute (ECSCRI) within Cardiff University. The organisation was terrific, and the venue stunning – oh, and the science inspiring. The institute boasts a proud supporter in Sir Terry Matthews, who made a special effort to attend the ECSCRI launch gala dinner, an energetic and inspirational sponsor if ever I saw one.
It was my first conference in some while and in the end it ranked as one of the best I’ve been to. I spoke to some field leaders, I spoke to some industry people, I spoke to some company reps, I spoke to some old friends, I spoke to some new – I spoke so much I could feel my voice cracking. Perhaps that is my primary measure of a good conference, how much I chatted and how valuable that chat felt. I took a poster along to present that was not my best purely in a presentation sense but contained some good work and moreover some good promise. The feedback that I had from the poster session was generally good, the discussions it inspired were worth the effort alone.
So now it is back to the lab and on with all the promise my poster suggested with a renewed sense of context, purpose, and urgency.