“What’s so great about posters?”

After four full days of fantastic science BPS 2016 is finishing today. I’ve heard some great talks by scientists I’ve admired for many years and also managed to speak to a few of them. I’ve been asking around to see what the highlights have been for everyone and it’s often the poster sessions. I’ve been trying to reflect on why this is.

Many of the presentations I’ve heard represent years of hard work by a team of people to produce the exceptional data shown. Completing the picture (or coming close) is often complicated and requires long term collaborations to piece the jigsaw of results together. It’s inspiring to hear and to see how all the pieces fit together when the right questions are asked.

One results of presenting a large body of work however, can be that there are fewer examples and discussion of current data and experiments being worked on right now. There are certainly many exceptions to this but maybe the popularity of the poster sessions is in part due to the fact that they are perfect for this type of discussion. It is much easier to present work in progress in this format and to have an in depth conversation about what is working really well and maybe what is not working as well. During my poster session wanderings I’ve overheard numerous discussions like this and also many suggestions being made – a fantastic way to progress science.

I’ve also seen the poster sessions as a great way of discovering new science and new people. I’ve read posters on a range of topics I wouldn’t necessarily have attended talks for. It’s a more informal way to meet researchers and ask questions outside of the talks – with thousands of researchers, finding one person can be challenging, but knowing they will be at their poster is a great way to be able to introduce yourself and start a conversation. Maybe this is why the sessions are so popular.

On that note, I’m about to head off to the last poster session of this conference. I’ve earmarked a few but I’m also looking forward to discovering some new ones. I’ve had a fantastic first BPS conference and hope there will be many more to come.

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