Chemical & Engineering News
by John Baltrus
As a former president of Pittcon (2004) and a current member of Pittcon’s Program and Site Selection Committees, I hesitated to respond to Maureen Rouhi’s editorial “Quo Vadis, Pittcon?” (C&EN, March 19, page 3) because my response might be perceived as biased. However, Rouhi’s decision to include, without further research, misstatements of fact by an exhibitor led me to attempt to correct some misconceptions I believe may result from her article.
I disagree with the implication that Pittcon’s program is in decline. The “book of presentations” that “was like a telephone book,” according to one exhibitor’s comments, was actually the Abstract Book, not the Final Program. The printed abstracts were converted to CD several years ago for ecological and cost reasons. The “slender magazine” that is the Final Program has remained about the same size because of the need to delete superfluous material to accommodate the growing number of presentations over the past 63 years. Currently, the Technical Program is limited only by meeting room availability, not a declining interest in participation.
It is also difficult to comprehend the same exhibitor’s comment that “few people want to give a serious scientific talk at Pittcon.” It is hard to imagine that speakers at Pittcon 2012 such as George Whitesides, R. Graham Cooks, Alan Marshall, Chad Mirkin, R. Mark Wightman, and Henry White, to name just a few of the many distinguished scientists who annually participate in the Pittcon Technical Program, are not serious about their presentations. In fact, 20% of the speakers in five technical sessions selected for webcast recording declined to have their talks recorded because the information contained in them was too novel to disseminate to a larger audience at this time.
As witnessed by the frequency of ACS meetings, scientific innovation does not operate on a two-year cycle. As in any field of business, some scientific companies are highly innovative and bring new products to market on a continuous basis, while others are less innovative and operate on longer cycles. There are examples of both at Pittcon. While understanding the limitations and concerns of the latter, the future lies in providing opportunities to the former.
The reader should keep in mind that Pittcon, which encompasses broad areas of analytical chemistry and scientific technology, will in general experience and reflect the larger pressures of layoffs and consolidations that have widely affected those areas. However, specific segments of the meeting have seen and will continue to experience considerable growth in popularity or severe decline depending on whether they are aligned with emerging technologies or those that have matured. As scientists who are intimately involved in day-to-day research, we aim to identify and direct the meeting toward addressing the needs of emerging and innovative technologies.
As with the editorial, the views expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of Pittcon.