A Recurrent Theme

I just had dinner with a Drosophila geneticist, an historian of science specializing in taxonomy, a paleontologist whose expertise is trilobites, and a developmental biologist who is using sea anemone genome data to map mutants, the opposite of the way things were done when I was in graduate school. By now, we all pretty much know one another, and when I looked over at the other tables, I noted the eclectic mixes. Everyone here is talking about it, how this meeting is like no other. AAAS (Am

By | June 11, 2005

I just had dinner with a Drosophila geneticist, an historian of science specializing in taxonomy, a paleontologist whose expertise is trilobites, and a developmental biologist who is using sea anemone genome data to map mutants, the opposite of the way things were done when I was in graduate school. By now, we all pretty much know one another, and when I looked over at the other tables, I noted the eclectic mixes. Everyone here is talking about it, how this meeting is like no other. AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) has a gazillion people, only some of whom are actual scientists. The cell biology, human genetics, microbiology, neuroscience, experimental biology, and American Chemical Society meetings have so many concurrent sessions that an attendee spends more time oscillating from room to room than actually absorbing anything. At many meetings the same roster of model organisms dominates - flies, mice, worms, Arabidopsis, E. coli, yeast. The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology is a nice break from this, but it, too, has the dreaded concurrent sessions. Gordon conferences may offer the same intimacy as this Galapagos meeting, but with an intense focus on one research area. Instead of bludgeoning us with rapidfire data, this World Summit on Evolution is raising more questions than answering them, which is the essence of science. At the same time, the way that this extraordinary gathering has been planned is introducing each of us to other fields, while providing many views of this still mysterious phenomenon that we call life.

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