Conferences are an important part of any scientist’s annual plans. You could attend a conference almost on any subject, and held in almost any part of the world. Many scientific societies hold annual meetings, and sometimes specialist meetings in between. When I was an active potato scientist in the 1970s I did manage to attend at least one Annual Meeting of the Potato Association of America. The 63rd Annual Conference was held in Vancouver, Canada on the campus of the University of British Columbia, 22-27 July 1979, and I was working for the International Potato Center in Central America at the time. I was able to combine this work trip with some vacation, and my wife Steph and 15 month old daughter Hannah came along. We had two or three days in San Francisco on the way north (my only visit to that wonderful city, apart from an overnight airport stop), several days in Vancouver (where the sun shone brightly all the time we were there), followed by a road trip through the Canadian Rockies to Edmonton, Alberta to spend a few days with my elder brother Ed and his wife Linda. From there we went on to Madison, Wisconsin to visit with Profs. Luis Sequeira and Arthur Kelman at the university, to discuss my work on bacterial wilt of potatoes. And then we flew home to Costa Rica via Chicago and Miami.
When I was with IRRI I managed to attend four or five annual meetings of the Tri-Societies (ASA-CSSA-SSSA): the Agronomy Society of America, the Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America, a huge shindig of several thousand attendees. I was a member of Division C-8 of the CSSA on genetic resources and was invited a few times to present my rice research.
For rice, however, there is only one meeting of significance, and that’s the International Rice Congress, with the 4th Congress (IRC2014) scheduled to take place in Bangkok, Thailand from 27-31 October 2014. And I have been taken on as a consultant by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to lead the development of the congress science program. Before I retired from IRRI in 2010 I had a similar role for the 3rd Congress (IRC2010) that was held in Hanoi, Vietnam in early November 2010. Planning had begun in early 2009, and after retiring I completed my role from my home in the UK.
I’m excited to be involved in IRC2014, not only because the congress is a prestigious meeting for rice science, bringing together rice scientists from all over the world (there were more than 2000 attendees in 2010), but it will help keep me up to date with latest advances in the rice world.
Planning is at an early stage, and a possible theme will be Rice for the World . . . watch this space; I’ll link to the official congress website when it’s up. I’ll be going out to Thailand at the end of April for a few days to meet with colleagues at Kenes Asia, the company that will handle all the logistics for IRC2014. Then it’s on to IRRI in Los Baños in the Philippines for about 10 days. Hopefully at the end of that trip we’ll have a science support committee in place, ad the broad structure of the science sessions mapped out. Of course there’s an enormous amount of work to arrive at a final scientific program, not least determining the detailed structure of the program – along scientific themes or disciplines, geographical regions, or even rice ecosystems. Lots of points to discuss and decisions to make.
The congress will be held at BITEC – the Bangkok International Trade & Exhibition Centre. Hopefully I’ll have chance to visit the venue during my two days in Bangkok. That’s very important to get a much better idea of just what is possible in terms of parallel sessions, space for poster sessions, and the all important plenary or plenaries. I haven’t been to Bangkok for many years and although traffic congestion is still bad, getting around has improved considerably, I’m led to believe, following the opening of the Skytrain.
Once the congress website is up and running, and there’s more to report about the science program at IRC2014, I’ll be making regular updates. Do come back.