Why this may be my last ACS

For many the ACS is the one meeting they go to year in year out. Me too. On and off over approximately 16 years I have attended with a poster or given talks and even done booth duty. But the current meeting in San Diego may well be my last.

Monday I gave a couple of talks in the division of small chemical businesses in a small room with a handful in the audience. I met a couple of the fellow speakers who were very interesting as were their talks. And yet we were speaking to ourselves, preaching to the converted. Over the years I have done the same thing in various CINF sessions. I see the same kinds of things recycled, I try to give something different each talk and this takes quite a toll in preparing etc. I have been happy to do this because each presentation in a way is like a mini publication and it helps put ideas together for future papers.

But enough, I am done. My next talk is on Thursday, on “using machine learning models based on phenotypic data to discover new molecules for neglected diseases” in the multidisciplinary program planning group. I have had a couple of days to mull this over. 4 days in one place to give 3 talks. I imagine the audience again will be small tomorrow.

I have been spending my downtime connecting with collaborators and friends in the area as well as keeping on top of emails, paper submissions, grants etc. I could have been so much more productive if this meeting had been virtual and I could have just connected when I needed too. I enjoyed doing the ACS virtual conference last year and frankly that was a good time investment. Plus by not attending this meeting I would have saved my money. Sure the face to face discussions are priceless and there are the chance discussions.  The exhibition room is fun to see new technology and load up on freebies. But is that really justification?

No hard feelings ACS, I have done my bit. I need some space. I have other meetings I can go to. I like smaller meetings also, ~1000 is a good size.. or Gordon confs. I think the ACS national meeting system needs a refresh as its so 20th century, the format has barely changed in the time I have been attending. So no Philly trip for me unless I have a  massive change of heart. I will miss the familiar faces but I am sure we will cross paths elsewhere. Consider this voting with my feet.


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  1. Ewa says:

    Dr. Ekins,
    I completely agree with you that the ACS conference need a refresh. The establishment seems to have gotten to big, there is little focus on quality, more on quantity and the divisions seem to be very disconnected.
    Having said that I must say that your talk was by far the best talk of the entire CINF sessions. I’m a bench scientist by training with a broad background mainly in genetic engineering and some chemistry. Over the last 2-3 years have developed a passion for machine learning and data science, and now are applying it not only to data that we’re generating in the lab but also helping other companies with their analysis. Have not worked on any chemistry data sets but that’s what drew me to your talk. As an outsider to CINF and the crowd you’re familiar with I very much appreciated your talk, I’m looking forward to reading your papers as I have no doubt I will find key insights on how to tackle chemistry data now. Thank you for your contributions and yes, there’s someone you inspired today!

    1. sean says:

      Dear Ewa,
      Greatly appreciate the feedback. If you need any pointers or papers just get in touch. You can also tweet to me at collabchem.
      I was surprised there was a good size audience so that’s probably due to folks like you!
      No hard feelings about calling time on coming to the meeting. The Pubchem presentation later mentioned they gave 13 talks at the meeting. I like PubChem, but not enough to go to 13 talks on it!
      Something has to give. I am glad to pass the torch to the next generation.

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