It seems you can't turn around these days without hearing about another government conference scandal. But what gets lost in the horror stories of magicians and fancy hotel suits is the real reason why these conferences are essential for govies, learning.
Sandra Magnus is the Executive Director of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). She told Chris Dorobek on the DorobekINSIDER program that conferences are a breeding ground for innovation and collaboration.
"When you talk about the science, technology and engineering sectors, conferences allow you to get caught up on what's going on in the industry. There are a lot of technical papers given that talk about the fundamental research going on as well as the people working on the projects from around the country," said Magnus.
Academic, Private and Public Sectors Unite
"Each part of the community approches problems differently. The academics are focused on the fundamentals of technology. Industry is of course working on optimizing it. Government is interested in the long-term problem solving that industry can not or will not do. So everybody has a different approach to the problem. When you put everyone together you get these different perceptions in the same place that allow people to broaden their horizons a bit. This cross-pollination is the only way to leap ahead of other countries and stay competitive," said Magnus.
Rate of Change
"We are living in interesting times because the rate of change is so fast. Now we have these mobile apps that let us take our office with us wherever we go. If communities aren't allowed to gather and catch up then portions of the community are going to get left behind and then their decision making and strategic decisions are going to be stale," said Magnus.
"You can do some of this interaction virtually but you don't get the full richness or potential until people can meet face to face. Real relationships are extremely hard to build online.
"I think all of us in the professional societies realize that we are living in a very challenging fiscal time. We recognize their are steps that need to be taken and that we need to be responsible on the budget front," said Magnus.
"99% of people who attend conferences are there for the right reasons. But the behavior of the 1% gets blown out of proportion and drives everyone else into the ground," said Magnus.
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