8 August 2014

72 Hours in the Life of the AGU Fall Meeting – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Posted by Chris McEntee

A lot can happen in 72 hours.

With the deadline for abstract submission looming, I’m sure you were feeling a sense of excitement. I have submitted an abstract to the Fall Meeting myself, so I know the exhilaration that comes from hitting the submit button.

Unfortunately, for many of you that excitement turned into frustration as, in the last day or two before the deadline, you experienced delays—including some very long ones—and outages in the abstract submission system. We put a lot of effort into preparing for that deadline here at AGU headquarters, so it was a big “I can’t believe this is happening” moment for us as well.

For the inconvenience and anxiety that situation caused you, I am truly sorry . . . and I want to thank you for your persistence in getting your abstracts submitted.

In times like these, the value of Twitter, Facebook, etc. becomes so clear. You were able to report problems and provide feedback to us in real time, which is invaluable in this type of situation. Your frustration came through loud and clear; so did your excitement (and your sense of humor). Here is a sampling of some of some of the more memorable tweets from the past few days:

Surprise! Everyone has waited until deadline day to submit an abstract for #AGU14. So naturally, the website is down. Every. Year.

The fastest section of the @theAGU #AGU14 abstract submission site….payment confirmation #Hmmmmm

For others struggling with @theAGU abstract web page MT ” #AGU14 abstract deadline extended until Thursday, 7 Aug, 11:59pm EDT.”

#AGU14 deadline extension announcement has just prevented me from throwing my laptop out of the window.

@theAGU embraces geological time scales, starting with the #AGU14 abstract submission site. Let’s hope it’s back up soon.

@theAGU clearly using same servers for #AGU14 abstract submission that HBO used for last Game of Thrones premiere.

#AGU14 “System down temporarily.” You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

While sometimes painful to hear, your feedback gave us good insight into the problem and helped to speed up our decision to extend the deadline. Then you helped us spread the word by sharing the news with your own networks. For that I sincerely thank you.

Those were the bad and ugly parts.

But there were good parts too. The 2014 Fall Meeting is shaping up to be the largest gathering of Earth and space scientists in AGU’s history. From 5 – 7 August alone, more than 14,000 abstracts were submitted, bringing the total to over 23,000 (we are verifying the submissions, so the final numbers won’t be released until early next week). Those abstracts represent the best our science has to offer, and I for one am incredibly excited to learn more about your research.

We’re also working on some great enhancements to the meeting for 2014, which are designed to improve the student experience, help those of you who can’t be in San Francisco participate from home, and build public excitement:

  • Expanded virtual options, including live-streaming and on-demand sessions, as well as e-posters
  • Student pop up sessions and a student mini-conference
  • AGU Yoga – to help you stretch your body and your mind (and to help relax you after the 5K Fun Run!)
  • Featuring scientists from the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission for the Public Lecture

Despite some early and large bumps in the road, I think this is going to be the best Fall Meeting yet. I look forward to seeing you all in San Francisco!