AGU Fall Meeting 2017 thoughts

There were many great things about AGU Fall Meeting (FM) 2017 that make it an extremely positive and worthwhile experience. AGU FM 2017 for the first time in four decades was not held in San Francisco. AGU FM 2017 was held in the New Orleans Convention Center. The biggest success of moving to New Orleans was having essentially everything under one roof. In San Francisco, all 3 Moscone Center buildings are used, plus a couple more area hotels, which can seem a bit “spread out”.

The venue two-way radio system was setup with a repeater sitting on the floor in a main hallway with a duplexer sitting on top and a medium gain monopole on a tripod. The repeater coverage could be improved by putting the antenna on top of one of the little room roofs with a low-gain omni antenna.

The venue had WiFi APs everywhere, but one was better off disabling WiFi on their devices and using cellular instead. Omnidirectional WiFi APs were placed throughout the halls, on tripods and hanging from the ceiling. There would be benefit from directional antenna APs, minimizing excessive coverage overlap. It would have been better to minimize use of 2.4 GHz to avoid devices cramming onto that band.

There were 4-5 outside vendors at the far north end of the Center that improved upon the food court selection. As typicaly for a 20,000+ person conference at mealtimes one had to walk over half a mile to find a place with less than 30 minute wait time. The AGU Fellows lecture Publish or Perish had a variety of meat and vegetarian items, both of high quality.

The URSI and CEDAR conferences are much smaller, consisting of perhaps less than 10% as many attendees as AGU. AGU FM registration was $480 for the week, plus travel and lodging, which is similar to URSI $450 and CEDAR $475. The other conferences go to places like Boulder, CO and Santa Fe, NM, which are more centrally located yet less expensive than major cities. CEDAR rotates locations as well. AGU Fall Meeting’s key advantage is bringing together over 20,000 scientists studying topics from the ocean floor to exoplanets, science communications, public policy and education. A key advantage of New Orleans Convention Center is that every poster was in the same large room, instead of being split up among two or three buildings as in San Francisco Moscone Center.

The exhibits included a wave tank as well as the ever-growing Naval Research Lab booth. NRL had about half the floor space of Google, which is a positive mark of NRL’s committment to geoscience.

The Public Policy lunch speaker noted that there are still several section liaison spots needing volunteers. Many of the people there had either education or public policy as a primary focus, even if they had originally been trained as a scientist.

Using AGU’s vaunted metadata archive, one could well estimate the carbon footprint reduction by having AGU Fall Meeting in a centralized location. Simply mapping probable first/presenting author locales would be interesting in itself. Perhaps gamifying travel carbon reduction for the given person’s travel (e.g. saving 80-90% carbon emissions by using train instead of plane).

Specifically for AGU 2017 Fall Meeting, several scientists traveled by Amtrak, saving perhaps 1 ton of carbon emissions for Baltimore ↔ New Orleans vs. plane. Anna Scott of Johns Hopkins helped publicize the #trainToAGU effort.

Staying at a conference hotel in a big city can be nearly $300/night, and New Orleans was no exception. Once can save over $200/night by using a home-sharing service. Gretna, LA, which was 10-20 minutes by ride-sharing car to the New Orleans Convention Center. Gretna is a walkable neighborhood, close to the Mississippi River Trail and historic Old Gretna.