Sunday, July 12, 2015
My thoughts on SMBE
Cost to send 1 American researcher to the SMBE for five days:
Airline ticket: $1,300 to $2,000
Hotel: $500 to $1,500
Food: $500 to $1,000
Total: $2,300 to $4,500
I tried to estimate the total number of American researchers attending this conference in Vienna from looking at the conference abstracts. It came out in the high hundreds. By comparison, I could count only about 10 Canadians at most authoring papers with primarily Canadian authorship. The population of Canada is about one tenth that of the United States, so you would expect to see proportionally, about 100 papers with predominant American authorship (compared to Canadian) at the SMBE. In fact, there is a significantly higher number of Americans presenting at this conference. Where is all this money coming from? And where is it going? Canadians live on average three years longer than Americans, so this money can't really be said to be improving the health of Americans.
It should be said that Big Genomics seems to be flush with cash these days. Other fields of research are not funding their researchers to go globe trotting about attending three or four conferences a year on different continents. WebEx has long since become the norm for many business interactions.
I have to say, I stand and gape at seeing yet another biology/genomics conference talking about incremental improvements in mathematical algorithms and bioinformatics. This has to be the fourth or fifth this year. By comparison, in my field, most people attend about one conference per year (if they're lucky enough not to be in the midst of a project that does not allow them to take a week off.)
Three or more international conferences a year seems pretty rich to me.
In stark contrast, it's hard not to think about the situation for Native Americans, some of whose DNA will be presented at this conference:
More that 1 in 4 Native Americans Live in Poverty
poverty definition: (earn less than $16,000 a year for a family of two)
"More than 1 in 4 native people live in poverty and their labor force participation rate – which measures the share of adults either working or looking for a job – is 61.6 percent, the lowest for all race and ethnicity groups. At 11 percent, the native unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2014 was almost double the national rate of 6.2 percent, according to the Labor Department."