I recently returned from the INGRoup conference which was, this year, held in Lisbon, Portugal. Academic conferences vary heavily in their format and the general ambitions of the conference attendees. The quality of the work varies like anywhere, but the advantage of INGRoup is that for groups researchers like myself, every session will have something interesting. For a variety of structural reasons, this conference has a bit more of a community atmosphere than some I have been to. At this year’s conference, I was privy to a conversation where some of the organizers of the earlier conferences described some of the reasons they have (for example) historically randomly assigned seating to the opening dinner. These small institutional changes have the goal of creating a connections, the goal that is embedded in the conference’s name: Interdisciplinary Network for Group Research (INGRoup). Those aspects of this conference are generally more successful than not.
I think that this conference has been particularly special to me so I wanted to describe some of my thoughts on the conference in general and on the Lisbon conference specifically. One of the motivations is, certainly, that I gave the Collective Intelligence (CI) conference a post a few weeks ago. The first time I went to INGRoup, I was on the market and participating in the Doctoral Consortium. This is a program that is intended to help students that are looking for jobs to see where their research fits, get some feedback on their job market paper, and get some advice on how to be a productive junior faculty member. I applied because I was on the market and because the conference was going to be in Pittsburgh, making it pretty easy to attend.
My experience was very positive at this conference in part because I had a chance to meet a lot of important people I had never met before but also because I got to connect with several other PhD students or junior faculty in the same boat as me. I have returned every year since 2015 and have continued to have positive experiences. Though some aspects of the conference vary in quality (the food and organization of the Helsinki conference in 2016 is hard to top), there are always interesting talks and a continued sense of community. I have yet to really leverage the relationships I have developed into research relationships, but I feel that that is really just a matter of time and needed proactivity on my part.
INGRoup Lisbon 2019 is the second time the conference has been held outside the United States. Compared to Helsinki, a number of things were notably different for me. In Helsinki there were only a handful of people I knew from CMU present whereas this year, a substantial cohort of students and some faculty were present. On both trips, I spent time with those individuals when exploring around the city when not at the conference itself. There was, however, more of a desire to spend time with the people I knew then meet new people. It’s a tricky balance of course. Compared to some previous conferences, I felt that Lisbon had a bit more slack time in the schedule. I think this was probably due in large because when you stay at the hotel the conference is a part of, you can quickly get away to work / change / chill. In Lisbon, the short periods of slack were still in the schedule but since the conference was on a college campus, no one’s hotels were all that nearby so people either left for long periods or felt that they couldn’t leave. I suspect that the Wine Cave dinner will be one of the more notable memories for many in attendance. Long story short, the event ran a bit long due primarily to traffic to the venue so that though the event was scheduled to conclude about 11, the majority of attendees I spoke to returned about 1AM. I enjoyed the event but there were some negative externalities on the second day of the conference due to that event.
I really like INGRoup and think that it generally works well. There were a few sour notes at this conference for a bunch of reasons, most of which are personal to me, but I look forward to hopefully being more involved in the future.