Is there value in scientific meetings?

This short editorial published recently in JAMA raises the question of the utility and value of scientific meetings. Dr. John Ioannidis writes an interesting and provocative editorial about whether these meetings serve any valuable purpose. He describes some of the negative aspects

  • carbon footprint associated with international travel to these meetings
  • lack of stringent review of abstracts and subsequent low percentage that are published as full articles (researchers can easily get accepted partially completed articles that don’t tell the whole story…especially since most abstracts are less than 300words)
  • lack of evidence-base required by keynote speakers; instead they often speak based on opinion yet because they’re considered “experts” – of concern is that their influence can alter practice substantially and this may be despite lacking evidence
  • infiltration of drug/device companies and the potential for conflicts of interest within the conference

pretty sure this could be done online at a fraction of the cost…??

Instead the author argues that given our technological advancements, money used for conference planning that has little educational impact (e.g renting the venue, food, etc) could be better used to design high-yield educational materials. The author also suggests that conferences become subject of study and trials.

He raises excellent points and ones that deserve consideration. As we move to more accessible technology that connects us virtually instantaneously, there is reduced utility traveling 2 days of simply to hear a few poorly peer-reviewed lectures. Though if the parties are good, might be hard to turn down a good conference!

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