There are so many conferences, and most junior researchers will only have a chance to attend one or two a year. Meeting reports are a way to make conferences accessible to those in the community who are not able to attend.
Can I write a meeting report?
Not all conferences permit blogging or tweeting from the meeting. It is therefore important to check whether this is allowed. Most of the time you will find guidelines on the website for the meeting. If you do, make sure to follow the guidelines strictly, especially regarding the policy on unpublished data (see below). If you cannot find any guidelines, do not assume that you can report on the meeting. It is best to contact the meeting organisers and let them know what you are planning. Most of the time the organisers are very happy to have someone spreading the word about the meeting, but occasionally they will want to read through your post before you publish it, or be sent the link once the post is available so that they may share your post.
What should I write about?
Three aspects of meetings are of interest to the community:
- Research presented
As you are writing for other scientists, the research presented is likely to be the longest proportion of your post. Are there any talks or projects that you found particularly interesting? Are there common themes running through the meeting (e.g. a new technique or model system that many people are using, or a specific topic that is gathering attention)? Did certain talks generate many questions or were followed by exciting discussion during the breaks?
- Additional events
Does the conference include additional workshops, e.g. on careers, skills, etc? Such events often include the sharing of ideas, tips and experience, which other researchers may be interested in hearing about.
- The ‘feeling’ of the meeting
Where is the meeting taking place? How does that make the meeting special or different? For example, if the conference is taking place at a ski resort maybe you have met one of the speakers at the end of the ski slope and that was a chance to chat! Or maybe it is taking place in an exciting city and you had the chance to see the sights or sample some local delicacy. This may sound superfluous but will make your post less formal and more personal!
It is impossible to mention every talk (especially if there are several concurrent sessions) or every event. A meeting report is your personal perspective on the meeting so you will have to naturally pick and choose what you find most interesting. If you are concerned about this then start your post by stating your area of research and scientific interests to explain your selection.
As mentioned above, conferences often have very specific guidelines on how you can report on someone’s work (published on unpublished), so make sure to follow these strictly.
If you have permission to report from the meeting but have not been given any specific guidelines, then you should never mention unpublished data without explicit permission from the speaker. You can choose therefore to only mention published work, or to contact the speakers and ask them for permission to mention their unpublished work. If you mention published data then include a link to the paper if possible. It is also polite to send a copy of the post to the speakers and/or organisers of the meeting before publishing, to make sure that you are not misrepresenting the work.
Style and format
The Node is a blog, and therefore the style of a post does not have to be as formal as a paper or review. Be professional, but you can show your personality by being more personal than in other types of scientific writing. Read previous posts on the Node and in other blogs, and find a style that you like and feel comfortable with. It is also important to consider your audience. The Node is read mostly by developmental biologists, so you should write for a scientific, but non-specialist, audience. For example, you don’t need to explain what DNA is, but you might have to give a little background to what FGF does, for those not working in that field.
As it is a blog, the Node also doesn’t have strict restrictions on length or format. We generally recommend that posts are around 1,000 words, and it can be useful to divide them into sections. We encourage writers to include photographs or videos (although do not take photographs of slides or posters without the permission of the authors). You can also check our writing tips for Node bloggers.