Abstract submission deadline for the fall meeting of American Geophysical Union (AGU 2017) is August 2nd, so it’s about time that we look through the sessions offered this year. There is a guideline on how to write AGU abstracts, but unfortunately there is no guideline on how to select a session. In my opinion, next to choosing a meeting, reading other abstracts, reviewing guidelines (as the EOS “how to…” advises you), you should also chose carefully the session before you start writing. It is important to check what sessions are available and on what topics the expected abstracts should be. In the best case scenario, your research fits in more than one session, so you could chose where to submit based on the best-fit with session description and/or conveners. In the worst case, your research doesn’t fit anywhere or you need to frame it in a different way, so it fits within the existing sessions. And if you’ve been through this exercise many times, you may decide to propose a session (this is not possible for AGU2017 anymore, but you can start thinking about 2018).
This year I fall into the worst case scenario. Same thing happened also when I was submitting for EGU (the European equivalent of AGU) some years back; I was still a PhD student then. I managed to fit my research into one of the sessions on policy implications, but the interest in what I had to say, standing next to my awesome poster, wasn’t exceptional.
The problem this year is that I have made up my mind to submit an abstract about our most recent published paper (read it here). I already applied for travelling support to my Department (with a tentative abstract
based on that paper) and got approved. The optimal session for me would be about groundwater quality. Or maybe something about groundwater or drinking water and health.
Here is what I got, when I searched for a session with the keyword “groundwater” (click here to check four yourselves):
- Hydrogeophysical Methods for Groundwater Evaluation, Management, and Modeling (link) (this is a session focused on geophysics)
- Groundwater Response to Climate Change and Variability (link) (climate change)
- Groundwater flow and transport in heterogeneous media: New insights from experimental, numerical, and stochastic investigations (link) (how groundwater moves through heterogeneous media)
- Irrigation using Groundwater and its Effects on Aquifers, Nutrient Cycling, and Food Security (link) (irrigation and groundwater based agriculture)
- Groundwater-Surface Water Interactions: Identifying and Integrating Physical, Biological, and Chemical Patterns and Processes Across Scales (link) (groundwater-surface water interactions)
- Regional Groundwater Quality, Availability and Sustainability: Advances, Methods and Approaches for a Complex, Changing World (link) (aha! maybe this will work! there is “groundwater” and “quality”, but there is also “changing world”)
- Current Perspectives on Biogeochemistry and Socioeconomics of Groundwater–Surface Water Interactions in the Gulf Coast Region (link) (only Gulf Coast Region)
- Novel Insights into Organic Matter Sources, Pathways and Fate in Groundwater and Surface Waters (link) (only organic matter)
- Cross boundary transport of contaminant in groundwater, vadose zone, and atmosphere (link)(contaminant transport & cross-boundary)
- Urban Groundwater: Data, Tools and Adaptive Planning for Integrated Management (link) (only urban)
- Nonpoint Source Pollution in Groundwater, Vadose Zone, and Surface Waters: Assessments, Mechanisms, and Control Strategies (link) (non-point pollution, aka contaminants)
These are all the sessions that have something to do with groundwater. Our recent paper is on iodine concentration and speciation in groundwater. The iodine is natural (geogenic or biogenic), not a pollutant, we don’t use geophysics, we don’t discuss climate change, and it is not just urban, it is regional. The only session title which somewhat fits is is “Regional Groundwater Quality, Availability and Sustainability: Advances, Methods and Approaches for a Complex, Changing World”. Still, it is not the best fit, because if you read the description, it sounds like it is going to be a session on climate change and pollution.
To be thorough, I also checked the keyword “health“, maybe there is something more relevant. Here are the results:
- Hydroclimate and Human Health (link) (climate)
- Public Health Applications of Remote Sensing (link) (remote sensing)
- Quantifying Tropospheric Ozone’s Present Day Distribution and Trends from the Perspective of Human Health, Climate and Ecosystem Productivity (link) (Tropospheric Ozone)
- Characterization of atmospheric nanoparticles and their impact on health effect. (link) (more on atmosphere and health)
- Climate Change Impacts on Human Health and the Environment (link) (climate change, a bit more general than the one on hydroclimate)
- Developing Integrated Data-driven Evaluations of Watershed Health (link) (watersheds)
- Atmospheric air pollution and public health: Why urban aerosols are so toxic? (link) (aerosols, more on atmosphere)
- Global Warming, Urban Heat Island and Public Health: Vulnerability, Impacts, and Adaption (link) (UHI)
- Geohealth and Plant Metabolic Emissions: Volatile Organic Compounds and Root Exudate Relationships between Atmosphere, Soil Biogeochemistry and Health (link) (VOC)
- Global Floodplains and Valley Floors: An Examination of their State, Health and Dynamics (link) (flood plains health, not human health)
- Observations from Space: A Unique Vantage Point for the Study of Climate Change and its Affects on Human Health (link) (another one on climate change and remote sensing)
None of these seem to be appropriate for what I would like to present. I also tried different key word combinations, to name just a few: aquatic chemistry, geochemistry, geohealth, medical geology… Nothing fits perfectly, unfortunately.
Now is the moment to consider other options… It seems like while there is not much on groundwater quality and health (nothing at all, actually). There are, however, plenty of other sessions covering watershed (or catchment) hydrology. I could potentially present some of my unpublished and unfinished post-doctoral research…
Another option is to chose a conference, which fits better my needs. In my case, this time, this is not a viable option, as I already have approved funding for attending this specific conference. Also, if I am going to only one conference in a year, this better be AGU or EGU. Next to presenting your own research, there are also plenty of other reasons to go to these two annual meetings. The autumn AGU meeting is the largest geo-related scientific event worldwide. Everyone, who’s someone in the Earth sciences will be there. Participating at an event of this scale means you can hear and see what people are doing right now, not in a year when they will publish it. You could also get inspired from another presentation and try a new method. You could forge a new professional relation (aka make contacts). You could also follow one of the many sessions on educational methods, or follow various workshops, participate in discussion groups, or go to the boots and find out about companies, other research groups or publishers, or new instrumentation etc. You also get to see your former colleagues (or some of them). All in all, being present and participating at AGU (or EGU) is important for your career.
In my case, because of all the reasons I mentioned, I will prepare my abstract for “Regional Groundwater Quality, Availability and Sustainability: Advances, Methods and Approaches for a Complex, Changing World”. That’s just because I think it fits the title of this session better than the actual description of the session (which is also about climate change and human impacts). Also, I may submit for the education sessions… but that’s another story.
Edit (Aug 1st): I actually decided to go with the option I almost didn’t discussed above – to submit my unfinished post-doctoral research.
note: cover photo of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (New Orleans) and AGU banner from http://events.jspargo.com