IMSC 2019: The final day

With a half day of talks the IMSC 2019 ended today in Toulouse. It was again a quite warm day and not far away the record for the recorded french temperature was broken today. So it was fitting that the final day started with event attribution talks and covered among others heat waves and their attribution to climate change. The next session was the final parallel session and I stayed in the event attribution session. It addressed more events and discussed the limits of these techniques.

After lunch the conference officially ended at it was time to look back at the past days here in southern France. The conference was well organised and fulfilled the expectations. Good food, good location, interesting scientific content. The main topics were extremes and detection and attribution. It blocked quite a big chunk of the conference and pushed the other topics for my taste a bit too far into a corner. Biggest issue in the verification and forecast evaluation was the handling of uncertain observations. Apart from that the conference covered good statistical practice, some talks about data and many good discussions about statistical topics. So it was fun to join this conference again, even with the very hot weather. So let’s see where the enxt conference will be, in three or something years.

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IMSC 2019: My presentation

The fourth day of the IMSC 2019 was the day when the heat wave finally hit Toulouse with full force. Around 40 deg C was what the temperature measurements told us and it felt a bit overwhelming. The morning started again with plenary sessions and talks about uncertainty separation and down-scaling. Afterwards followed the poster session in a tent outside, and it got warmer and warmer over time as the wind was not as strong as in the last days.

After lunch the parallel sessions for the day started and I chose the one on forecast evaluation. The first part was reserved for the development of new verification procedures and I had my own talk in this section. It went alright, I presented two new skill scores basing on the EMD and demonstrated it at different seasonal prediction applications. The second half of the session was on the application of verification procedures and showed many different fields.

With the end of the talks it was time for the social events. The choice was either a wine tasting on a ship or a walking tour through town. I chose the latter one and it was a challenge to always find shade to get not too warm in the sunshine. Tomorrow will be the last day and the weather will still be warm enough to be a challenge.

IMSC 2019: Halftime and the heat wave is coming

The third day is over at the IMSC 2019 in Toulouse and it was a day full of presentations. The first session was on the interaction of humans with climate and Space-time statistics. Main topics where the construction of indices to communicate severeness of climate related hazards to the experts and public and the transition of weather regimes. It was followed by talks about Detection and Attribution, another main topic at this conference. A interesting topic was the influence of the view of a scientist on the statistical results, which highlighted the subjectivity of statistics.

After lunch, which happened to be inside for the first time this week, due to the weather outside (I assume more thanks to the windy conditions, rather than the hot temperatures), the conference went again into parallel sessions. I switched between the space-time statistics sessions and long-term D&A, which covered among others the complex uncertainty structures of regression models and the classification of weather regimes.

Tomorrow will be a challenging day. So we expect something around 40 degrees and there will be a poster session and I will give my own talk. So it will certainly be exciting. Oh and not to forget, some outside activity is planned in the evening, in this heat certainly a special experience.

IMSC 2019: First poster session

The second day at IMSC 2019 in Toulouse and we started the day with three plenary talks on big data and extreme value analysis. Interesting topics around the reconstruction of observational data and how to properly do event attribution. After these talk an well filled poster session took place. Interesting posters on the topics of the last two days allowed many discussions on and beside the poster themes.

Capitol by night

Late ending of the dinner leads to nice views of the city

After lunch the next topic was changes of extremes. Again three topics showed how complex the estimation of extremes are in a changing world. Afterwards we split again in the minor rooms for the parallel session, where I attended the space-time statistics one. At this the topic was laid on emulators and the determination of significance.

With the end and a little break the final happening of the day was the conference dinner. Good french food and drinks allowed many interesting discussions. With this a long day ended and from tomorrow on we all expect the start of the heat wave.

IMSC 2019: Here we go Toulouse!

It is my second time at the International Meeting on Statistical Climatology (IMSC) after I have been on the previous conference in Canmore, Canada. This time it is hosted by Meteo France in Toulouse in Southern France. The main topic of the week will not necessary be the statistics, but mainly the weather, with the little heat wave which is announced for later this week.

But until we come to that we start with statistics. After collecting the badges, the conference kicked of with a look at Homogenisation and Machine Learning. Especially the latter will be most likely a big topic of this conference. Due to its increased visibility in its application in data science also the climate community gives Machine Learning a go and apply it to some applications.

After the plenary session on those topics it switched to three parallel sessions, which will be also the pattern for the rest of the week. I chose the changes in extremes session and went on to some homogenisation talks in the latter part. For the final session I visited the big data session, which showed several statistical approaches to look at larger datasets in different forms. The day ended with the obligatory ice breaker.

We will see how the topics will evolve over the week. Today I was surprised to hear topological approaches in several talks. In connection with Machine Learning some obviously see it as a big thing. And yes, since we are in France, I am looking forward for great food. Today was already a good start, finger food in many different versions was on offer during the session breaks.

An honest comment

The party is over, EGU 2019 is history. Over the days I have written some impressions I got from the conference, but sticked mostly to the positive points (Day 1, 2, 3, 4, 5). As always, the EGU itself, the opportunities it offers to talk to all kind of scientists and listen to their advancements was amazing. But compared to the last years the organizers have implemented several changes to the program, on which I would like to address a few honest comments. I am very aware that there are many people in the background who do a hell of a job to make this conference possible and they face the impossible task to make everybody happy and the challenge that every year more and more scientists want to attend the conference.

The topics I want to address in this post are the following

  • increase from 6 to 7 talks per session
  • limit to one contribution per scientists (instead of two)
  • poster sessions in parallel to talks
  • networking session instead of poster session in the evening
  • general comments

Most of these topics came up in many many conversations during the days with other scientists, people are complaining every year (usually about the drinks and the rooms for certain sessions), but this year there were constant discussions about all sorts of complaints.

Number of talks per session

In order to have enough time for the in parallel running poster sessions the number of talks was increased from 6 to 7 per session. A reason given was that more scientists want to have a talk rather than a poster and therefore there should be more space for talks. I personally have expected a worse impact by this change. Yes, surely, after six talks you are tired and do not listen anymore to the last one as you should, but as many do not follow the whole session anyway (see poster parallel to talks below), it seems to work. What I find more problematic is the notion that only because scientists prefer talks they should given more of them. First, this devalues posters and second, talks are up to now seen as something like an award for a good abstract and an interesting topic. Devaluing posters and talks at the same time is certainly not good, but as we have to see it as a business decision, it is acceptable. Especially as it has a reason behind it (more time for posters).

Limit for contributions

When I found out about this change I was honestly deeply worried. I have made the argument in the past that this change will heavily impact early career researchers.

The argument for this is two fold. On the one side the big shots will get a talk. Generally EGU is good in promoting young scientists to get talks at their conference. And with more talks available, it is hoped that the opportunities are not diminished for the ECR’s. I have no overview whether this has worked, but I give the benefit of the doubt. The other side is potentially much more damaging. In theory most senior scientists will now have only one abstract and most of them will end up in talks (I neglect at this points that most senior scientist are able to put fake first authors at the first place of the author list to have as many contributions as they want). That means, they will not have a poster where they are obliged to fulfill their attendance time. And it is the poster sessions where ECR’s have a chance to get in contact with the senior scientists, might it be to make their names known or make important steps for their career. By risking to loose these opportunities (see someone you are interested in a talk and then go to their poster to talk with them), ECR’s are in risk of loosing chances to progress. I understand that there are now too many scientists to give everybody a second contribution, but I am not really convinced by this argument. Because when you walked through the poster halls, many many lines in of poster boards where empty. So there is space for more posters. Might there be ways of change? Sure, but they might all be more complicate to implement (allow two contributions, with a first and a second, but the second is not guaranteed to be allowed to get through… but as many author lists are cheated it will be hard to implement as scientists will find ways around it).

Empty poster boards over the day

Poster sessions in parallel to talks

The biggest change was to put posters in parallel to talks. It is not uncommon to do this at conferences, AGU is famous for that. Nevertheless, I do not think that this is a good decision. There are massive consequences for the conference, not only for the posters, but for the talks as well. Compared to my last experiences at EGU I got the impression that more scientists leave the talks in between. This leads to disturbances, especially in the small rooms. As they are overfilled anyway, people leaving are ending in pushing and and asking for letting them through. Also posters are devalued by this. I was surprised that in the poster session I attended there was still proper crowd (and that at the end of the conferences), but in the end you have now to choose: see the headline science in a talk or much more of potentially non-headline stuff in a poster session. It might work when you are a disciplinary scientists (as I have written before, EGU is not really prepared for interdisciplinary visitors) as ideally there are just a few sessions you really care about and those are all coordinated that the poster sessions do not overlap the talk sessions. But honestly, this hardly ever is the case. As a consequence I have certainly missed out of many interesting discussions at the posters this year as well as many talks (usually ECR talks), which I had to skip because I still wanted to have the chance to see scientists at their posters.

The networking session

Networking is important. Anyway, the networking session was introduced to full the space for the poster session. And in my opinion, the introduction of the final hour in the evening has completely failed. At the first day you saw quite a lot of people in the poster halls talking and drinking, the typical catch up at the start of a conference. But the following day a huge amount of scientists used this hour to make an early end to the conference day and went to town for food. So basically the conference was shorten every day by an hour. I also missed the walk through the poster halls at the end of the day. Have a drink, go to sessions you potentially wouldn’t have had walked in on purpose and having nice chats with young and senior scientists. That is for myself (and many others I spoke) the most important part of a conference. This is gone at the EGU. Most scientists take down their poster either directly after their poster session in the morning/afternoon or at the beginning of the networking session. There is hardly anybody at their posters anymore and especially those you want to talk about are gone. In my opinion this has heavily damaged the usefulness of the conference. So at least make the network session another attendance time for the poster. Having one in the morning/afternoon and then another in the evening for everybody who preferred talks over the day would be proper way to minimize the impact.

General comments

Yes, complaints at EGU are the usual, but having this many heard over the days in close to all conversation I had is not a good sign. And we are now not talking about the little thinks like drinks (you can never make that right) or room choices (they are always too busy in the small rooms and to empty in the big ones). And yes, there are some complaints I can fully understand on the minor topics (offering springs to not to use so many plastic bottles, but giving out the drinks in the evening in plastic bottles? Really?!) The topics mentioned above are much more damaging for the EGU and the experience the scientists take from it. It leads to devaluing posters, disturbances in the talks sessions, ECR’s only confronted with people who care about their topic and hardly anymore a wider audience, even more the feeling you have missed important research and opportunities, and the impression that that what many people valued so highly at the EGU is gone. While I do not expect that there will be a roll back of the changes for next year, there will be a bigger topic coming up for the future of the EGU, which I heard in so many conversations: Is Vienna still the right place for the EGU? We all love Vienna, not too expensive, a nice conference centre, good opportunities to live, eat and socialize during the conference. Nevertheless, EGU has outgrown the conference centre. The queues at the small rooms get longer and longer, many do not get in and then look for a second choice. In some sessions the number of people in the room where double the number of seats available. Together with the changes made this year and the consequences that even more scientists want to switch between sessions and posters, I do not see how Vienna can be the long-term choice of the EGU anymore. The alternative would be to actively limit the number of scientists attending, e.g. by rejecting abstracts. Honestly, nobody wants that, but the changes implemented this year haven’t made the conference experience better.

EGU 2019: Final day

The final day at EGU 2019 is done. It was an exciting day here in Vienna, which ended with my poster at the final poster session of the conference. But let’s start in the morning. After hanging up my poster I joined the Energy Meteorology session for a couple of talks. Next I went to the data assimilation and prediction session, which is a stark contrast to the the one before. While in the Energy session data assimilation will be explained in some nice pictures, the latter session is always highly theoretical and filled with a lot of equations.

The second session of the day was for me happening at the dynamics of the atmospheric circulation session. It described well the influence of eddies on the atmospheric circulation and thermodynamics and showed the change of wind shear over time. In between I took a look at a talk about skewed ensembles, which gave me a lot to think about.

After lunch break, which saw a bit of sun, but was at the same time quite chilly outside, I visited a PICO session on paleo-databases. PICO are still not really my favorite type of presentation, but with this topic it was quite alright and let to interesting themes and discussions. Again I interrupted the session to see another talk on Gaussian process regression.

Final session was then the poster session. I showed a topic quite similar to last year. I was surprised that even for the late session I had some interesting discussions as usually these sessions are quite empty. With that the conference ended from my side. It was a successful one from my side of view as many discussions will hopefully open doors for future collaborations. Concerning the conference organisation today I will write another post in the upcoming days, as it will require an honest comment. Up to then, until next time in Vienna.