For various reasons, I have found myself co-convening sessions for some conferences later this year. One of these sessions has so far been a pleasure to organize, as I am working with a congenial, compatible, and international group of colleagues. We have different but complementary expertise, and I think it's going to be an interesting session.
The other session is still in the early stages of organizing, but already I can tell that my co-convener and I do not share the same world view of session organization. I am not going to go into the details of how we came to co-convene this session. Just assume that I had little choice about whether I organized this session and no choice in co-convener.
In any case, my co-convener and I get to select some invited speakers. This is where we diverge in Conference Organizing Philosophy. I personally would prefer to choose speakers who would give the most interesting talks, whether or not they are the most famous people on the planet in our field of Science. Sometimes early career scientists give the best talks because they are doing the most creative work, and -- even better -- sometimes it is work that hasn't already been presented at the last 57 conferences.
My co-convener subscribes to the Invite the Big Cheeses cult of session organizing. Big Cheeses can be very interesting, there is no doubt about that, but this co-convener doesn't seem to be able to discriminate between someone who could either give an interesting new talk or an insightful review talk vs. someone who has not had anything new or interesting to say in n+10 years. When he sent me his list of suggested invited speakers, I was stunned. I would only have come up with the same names if you had asked me to come up with a list of people most likely to give boring talks about the same old stuff.
Yes, I am aware that opinions can diverge and that what is boring to me might be fascinating to someone else, but really.. this list was amazing for its potential snooze quotient.
I suppose the idea is that if you have Big Invited Cheeses in a session, many people will want to participate and attend. I could well be wrong, but I think that is more likely to work if the Big Cheese is someone who gives a good talk and has new things to say.
In the end, I suppose my co-convener and I will compromise and the session will be like most sessions -- a mix of interesting (i) and boring (b). My hope, of course, is that i : b will be high.
6 months ago