Intended for healthcare professionals

Head To Head

Are international medical conferences an outdated luxury the planet can’t afford? Yes

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 26 June 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:1466

International Conferences or International Friendships?

I am really surprised that authors can make such sweeping comments based on so little scientific evidence. As it stands today, carbon footprints are the in-thing to discuss. But to link it with international conferences and eventually global warming, is taking it too far. There are indeed reasons to cut down on large international conferences, but carbon emissions are certainly not the reason. The huge economics of conducting such conferences and consequently the savings that can be accomplished by limiting them are the only reason why we need to cut down on them. One can never argue that virtual conferences are better off, since the pleasure of meeting someone in the real world is different. Would one agree to spend one's married life with a virtual wife? The same argument holds for conducting conferences, where the human interaction is necessary, nay important, for people who otherwise would never get to present their findings, make contacts and develop networks. I can only give a personal example which, I hope, many would agree with.

I was at the recent American Psychiatric Association meet in Washington DC and was indeed lucky to hear a talk by Stephen Stahl, a leader in psychopharmacology. The talk would have been exciting even if done through a tele-conference. But the icing on the cake was when I got to meet him, speak to him and shook his hands. That was reason enough for a young researcher to be motivated and enthused enough to continue his research.

Competing interests: None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

30 June 2008
Sahoo Saddichha
Senior Consultant, WHO-BGI
Kolkata, India