As I sat waiting for my flight out of Denver this morning, I chatted with a woman who, as it turns out, teaches at a small college in Michigan. She does her research on plant conservation genetics, which is what I studied in school. I don't usually talk to strangers much (although I admire people who are really good at it) but she was carrying a poster tube and was about my age, so I figured we'd have something to talk about.
CB and I were talking the other day about scientific conferences, after I told him I put together a 12 minute talk. He thought that was kind of bogus. The audience would learn more about a particular project if the talk were, say, 30 minutes or so. This is true, but there are just too many people (about 900 presenters) wanting to give talks to do that.
Why don't they pare it down? Well, presenting one's research at scientific meetings is part of being a scientist. It's a way to tell others what one is doing research-wise, learn about what other people are doing, pick people's brains about new ideas, get help with troubleshooting, and make contacts for future collaborations. I don't think they turn anyone down who wants to do a talk, but I'm not sure.
And, while it's true that getting everything you want to say down to 12 minutes can be a challenge, bigger talks that are good talks require more work. I lucked out and give my talk tomorrow afternoon. Just enough time to practice a bit, attend some morning talks, get my talk over with and enjoy the rest of the conference.