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Meeting Mania


By Meredith W. Salisbury


You get them all the time: brochures, flyers, e-mails reminding you to attend an upcoming conference. It seems that going to meetings could become a full-time job — but who has the time to be away from their lab that much?

The problem, of course, is choosing which conferences are worth your while. Perhaps you’ve been attending the same three meetings each year for the last decade; how do you know you’re not missing something critical at one of the more recently launched conferences? What if the old standbys haven’t stood the test of time, and you’re simply looking to find a replacement for an old meeting that’s lost its luster?

Enter the Genome Technology conference survey. We polled our readers about their experiences at dozens of conferences so we could offer you this resource on how the meetings really stack up. In the pages that follow, you’ll find a compilation of data about conferences rating their quality of speakers, posters, networking opportunities, and much more. We included the top-rated conferences by broad category (large biomedical, instrument/technology, and so forth) as well as information about what your peers see as the most important aspects of a conference, travel budgets, and much more.

One critical thing we learned: the vast majority of readers go to no more than three meetings per year. That makes for a tough choice. If you’re considering which conference may be worth dropping, be sure to check out our data on overlapping attendance: we list the meetings attended most often by the same group of people to give you a better sense of which conferences can be swapped on your travel schedule.


The survey for this conference ratings guide was conducted this summer in two separate parts. We e-mailed our readers a link to the first section of our Web-based survey, which asked basic questions about travel habits. That part of the survey also asked readers to go through several lists of conferences and identify which they had attended, planned to attend, and would recommend. Then we drew up the second half of the survey — again, sent as a link to readers — to ask detailed questions about the top 10 conferences (identified based on recommendation and attendance data gleaned from the first round). Response was favorable: 833 readers filled out our first survey, and 974 answered the second round. We were especially pleased to see that readers pulled no punches: they oohed and aahed for their favorite meetings, and minced no words for meetings that they felt didn’t hold up to expectations.

To track demographic data, we asked respondents to answer the same two questions (job title and type of organization) in each survey. We then added all responses for both surveys together and tallied them as a percentage of total respondents to normalize across the surveys.



Dropping attendance
Conferences where respondents who attended the most recent one outnumber those who plan to attend the next one. (Five conferences losing the most attendees)
International Conference on Arabidopsis Research
PAG: Plant and Animal Genome Conference



Most recommended conferences by category


Large biomedical/scientific meetings

1 ASHG: American Society of Human Genetics

2 AACR: American Association for Cancer Research

3 Experimental Biology

4 ASCB: American Society for Cell Biology

5 AAAS Annual Meeting


Model organism/plant and animal meetings

1 (tie) Microbial Genomics

1 (tie) PAG: Plant and Animal Genome Conference

3 International Mouse Genome Conference

4 Plant Biology

5 Annual Drosophila Research Conference


Technology/instrumentation meetings

1 Chips to Hits

2 ABRF: Association of Biomolecular Resource Facilities


4 ASMS: Annual Conference on Mass Spectrometry

5 LabAutomation


Bioinformatics/IT meetings


2 Genome Informatics


4 PSB: Pacific Symposium on Biocomputing

5 An nual Conference on Computational Genomics


Genomics meetings

1 Biology of Genomes

2 HUGO: Human Genome Meeting

3 Beyond Genome


5 A GBT: Advances in Genome Biology and Technology


Specialized scientific meetings

1 ICSB: International Conference on Systems Biology

2 (tie) Int ernational Meeting of the Microarray Gene Expression Data Society

2 (tie) Annual Systems Biology Symposium

4 Annual Symposium of the Protein Society

5 HUPO Annual Meeting



Of all the factors they consider when choosing a conference, respondents were most on the fence about the cost of travel, accommodations, and registration.

63.4% say this is “somewhat important” to consider.




Top 10 Conference Ratings


Using information from the first round of the survey, GT identified the top 10 most attended and most recommended conferences. Readers then rated these 10 conferences for a number of qualities on a scale from excellent to poor.

The results, shown below, represent a score from 0 to 3 assigned to each conference using a weighting formula: each “excellent” rating earned a conference three points, “good” was worth two, “average” was worth one, and a “poor” rating earned zero points. Points were totaled for each conference and then divided by the number of respondents to normalize across meetings.

The highest possible score, therefore, is 3.0.












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