Appointment AGU Fall Meeting Program Chair

Eos, Vol. 95, No. 23, 10 June 2014
From Europe to the United States,
Rousseau Takes on the Fall Meeting
Denis- Didier Rousseau smiles shyly when discussing his new role as the chair of AGU’s
Fall Meeting Program Committee. “I’m not used to giving interviews,” he says. Nonetheless,
he becomes very passionate as he begins to talk about his views on transdisciplinary science
and its role in AGU meetings, on including more young scientists in planning meetings, and
on the importance of virtual meetings. Rousseau, who is currently a visiting professor at
Columbia University, sat with Eos to share his excitement about working with AGU
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Eos: The AGU Fall Meeting is the largest
meeting of Earth and space scientists worldwide. As in any endeavor, there is always
room for improvement. What ideas do you
have to build on the Fall Meeting’s current
Rousseau: When you are responsible for
chairing the program committee of a meeting
that is already successful, first you have to
remain very humble to the success that your
predecessors have achieved. But I do have
some ideas that are in keeping with AGU’s
vision, and I think that there are some improvements that can be made, not only to
scientific content but also to the scientific
For example, I think there is room, and
a need, to promote and improve transdisciplinary topics. However, building transdisciplinary sessions is not something that can be
achieved very easily or quickly. You have to
slowly but surely build a following while convincing people of interest. This could provide
some added value to the Fall Meeting.
Having transdisciplinary sessions can help
shed light on emerging fields, new topics, and
new groups that have a new way of thinking,
which, from what I read, is what the AGU strategic plan entails. Although Fall Meeting is the
largest Earth sciences meeting, science is
evolving outside of AGU, as seen by trends in
international programs in fields like the social
sciences, for example. These groups could
be involved in the AGU Fall Meeting by coorganizing and co- designing sessions with
those that exist already.
So there are huge possibilities to develop
some new concepts. But for that to happen,
people must be ready to share and to really
discuss ideas with one another for the benefit
of the Union.
Eos: Are there any emerging or transdisciplinary science areas that you would like to see
get more exposure at the Fall Meeting?
Rousseau: I mentioned the social sciences
and even engineers; because of global warming, there are a lot of discussions now and
more and more developments in geoengineering. There is a lot of interest to have people with these backgrounds on board at a
scientific meeting for them to speak on how
they are considering our science and how we
as scientists can improve on their current theories on socially relevant topics.
Social scientists are addressing issues differently than we would as Earth scientists, so
I think there is a need for their input during
our discussions. I also feel that when we ask
these experts to join us, we should include
them in the planning and design of the session and any subsequent discussions.
Eos: What are your thoughts on AGU’s virtual meetings?
Rousseau: I am a great fan of more video
content and open-access distribution where
available, so I think virtual meetings are
something that has become necessary. If
you want to give your meetings some added
value, you need to work on adding more virtual sessions, but then you have to be concerned about the cost.
However, I am very much in favor of these
virtual sessions because this helps considerably for people who want to attend multiple sessions that are of interest to them but
due to time constraints are unable to attend
both in person.
Eos: AGU’s student participation at the Fall
Meeting is currently around 33%. How does
this compare with other large scientific meetings? And how would you like to see more
involvement from young scientists?
Rousseau: The young and early- career scientists are the next generation. So while it is
fine to think about the present, investing in
the future is also something relevant and important. And when you are an organization
like AGU, we have to be visionary and look
ahead. This is why I would like to see for
every session at least one young scientist
© 2014. American Geophysical Union. All Rights Reserved.
Denis-Didier Rousseau
co- convener, and eventually more may start
convening sessions.
It’s very difficult to set student attendance
targets because it can depend on the number
of grants available or what research lab or
institution they come from; all of this can influence the ability of young scientists to attend
a meeting. I graduated from a small university
and had to do a lot for myself. I always said
that if I were ever in a position to help young
people to avoid facing what I have faced, then
I would help them and make their journey
more comfortable.
Eos: You have said you have concerns
about the limited amount of time that those
chairing sessions at the Fall Meeting have for
discussions after talks.
Rousseau: I noticed that in reading the
comments made on past Fall Meetings, some
people said that there is not enough time for
discussion. I am among those who attend
meetings expecting some discussion because
I’m interested in the topic and the experts assembled. I believe it would be a real trademark for the Fall Meeting if, I would say, most
of the sessions would have discussions. I also
think this would be a great opportunity for
young scientists to have the opportunity to
express their views in front of their more established peers.
I’m very excited about the upcoming Fall
Meeting and working with all of the Program
Committee and the AGU Meetings Department to have another very successful Fall
—TRICIA MCCARTER, Production Assistant, AGU;
email: [email protected]