Time Out

The Timer (Ritter/C&EN)Organizers of the fluorine conferences taking place in Grand Teton National Park this week did a lot of thinking ahead when planning the technical sessions. Fluorine meetings tend to be a bit relaxed, and fluorine chemists a bit verbose, with speakers running over their allotted time and ensuing discussions dragging things out even further. But with so many lectures on the schedule, the organizers knew they had to keep speakers on time. Typically a session chair at a conference will give a little warning to the speaker or stand up when their time is running out. At the fluorine conferences the organizers are trying a different approach: electronic timers. A clock is set by a conference staff member at the beginning of a talk, so that the speaker sees exactly how much time they have remaining. A beeper goes off with five minutes remaining, and again when time runs out. Beat the Clock (Ritter/C&EN) At the outset of the conference the organizers explained this protocol, with the threat that anyone not ceasing when time ran out would have the plug pulled on their PowerPoint presentation. The session chairs are supposed to be the enforcers, but so far none of them have seemed to have the heart to cut anyone off. But the speakers sure are talking fast with one eye on the clock and skipping slides to end on time. It doesn’t seem to impact the quality of the talks, but it is keeping everyone honest. In the photo, Viacheslav Petrov of DuPont, with his back to the camera, is trying to beat the clock, down to less than two minutes to go, as session chair Surya Prakash of the University of Southern California keeps a wary watch.

Author: Steve Ritter

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