Thursday, July 17, 2008

Marie-Curie Workshop

In the morning it actually had begun to rain a little. The sky was gray, and a slight drizzle was in the air. So I had gone up back to my room, to get umbrella and jacket. But is was still warm, and by noon the clouds had gone - it was again sunshine.

The workshop started shortly after 9:00 am. There were 300 participants, mostly Post-Graduate (PG) students, a few postdocs. I seemed to be completely out of place.

A few presentations gave overviews on various subjects. Prof. Winkler, U.Vienna, spoke about the European and the US university system. In EU, universities receive very little funding. UK appears to be exceptionally high, with 0.8% of the GDP from private and the same amount from public funding. The US appears to be leading: 1.4% of the GDP comes from privat funding, 1.3% from public funding. He made the point that Europe has to learn a lot from the US, and he had positiv words for the UK which was somewhat in between. R&D expenditures in EU are 1.9% of the GDP (2007), in the US 3% (in 2003).

Noel Campling, Directpr of the European Patent Office, had swapped his talk with Sean McCarthy, as he would have to leave in the afternoon. He talked about patents and the importance of IP. Currently there are 200,000 patent applications per year.

After the coffee break was the poster session. As already pointed out, it was very cramped - no space to move through.

Sean McCarthy (Hyperion) advocated that scientists need to learn the "language" of business, so that they could sell their ideas and implement them in products and society.

Then was lunch, with everybody reconvening at 15:15. The workshop participant were then divided in three equal groups, split into 3 separate rooms. There, three panels of experts were giving the same talks in each group, rotating around through the rooms. The idea was probably to allow for more interaction; however, time for questioning was relatively short, so that this goal was not really achieved. Instead, the whole sessions were there for 3 hours, without any coffee break. As it was getting quite warm and humid, people (especially me) got thursty. I went out briefly to go to a kiosk, to get some water, as the vending machines in the basement were sold out. What kind of a conference/exposition centre is this where one cannot get anything to drink?

The panels were very interesting. One talked about the work of researchers in industry, another one about disseminating the work, and the third one talked about their own experience and success in research. Is a very good inspiration for graduate students.

In the meantime, the ESOF 2008 rence was being setup in the conference hall. A lot of activity, as it would start the next day. More than 4000 participants were expected to this conference.

In the evening there was a party organised for the Marie Curie Workshop participants near the coast. The directions to the location were slightly unclear; I got the metro station, then walked a bit around along the coast until I found it. 300 people were squeezed onto one patio, with finger food and free drinks, and sufficient opportunities for interaction and discussion.

I chatted briefly with one of the panelists, whose interest is Late Roman Cooking, which he investigates through archaeology and examination of food remains.

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