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A Guide to AAS Meeting Etiquette

Wednesday, December 18, 2013 - 09:44

AAS meetings are the largest and most logistically complex astronomy meetings in the world. We ask all attendees to work together to enhance the value of the meetings by keeping in mind the following points.

Executive Summary

  • Do wear your AAS identification badge at all times during the meeting.
  • Do obey the “golden rule,” i.e., treat others as you would have them treat you.
  • Do not hog wireless bandwidth; use the AAS wireless service sparingly.
  • Do be quiet during presentations; use computers and mobile devices discreetly.
  • Do silence all cell phones and other electronic devices with audible alerts.
  • Do not blog, tweet, or otherwise post private conversations online.
  • Do not panic if reporters attend your talk on results under journal embargo.
  • Do pick up after yourself by depositing trash in the appropriate receptacles.

General Considerations

Meetings of the American Astronomical Society are not public events. All attendees must register at the applicable rate; registration types are structured to cover all situations. The only exceptions involve sessions or other activities specifically noted as being open to the public, such as public talks or star parties held in collaboration with local amateur astronomers.

Identification badges must be worn at all times during the meeting. These badges help meeting attendees, AAS staff, and security personnel identify registered participants. Attendees not wearing their name badges will be denied entrance to session rooms, the exhibit hall, and other meeting venues. If you lose your name badge, visit the AAS registration desk to obtain a new one. Note that the design of AAS meeting badges changes regularly to prevent the inappropriate reuse of old badges.

Attendance at AAS meetings is not a right but a privilege, and attendees are expected to behave professionally. The AAS is committed to providing an atmosphere that encourages the free expression and exchange of scientific ideas. The AAS is further dedicated to the philosophy of equality of opportunity and treatment for all members and other meeting attendees, regardless of gender, race, ethnic origin, religion, age, marital status, sexual orientation, disabilities, or any other reason not related to scientific merit. It is AAS policy that all participants in Society activities will enjoy an environment free from all forms of discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Harassment, sexual or otherwise, is a form of misconduct that undermines the integrity of Society meetings. Violators will be subject to discipline. (Read the full AAS anti-harassment policy.)

AAS-meeting staff are trained professionals, expert at organizing and conducting scientific meetings. They work with professional contractors who specialize in providing audio-visual and other services, and with professional hotel and convention-center staff as well. The AAS retains security services, sometimes through the meeting venue and sometimes privately, to ensure the safety and security of all meeting attendees and exhibitors. Help us ensure a safe, secure, and professional environment by acting appropriately, reporting inappropriate behavior, and paying attention to those around you and your environment.

Attendees who are notably disrespectful or who act in an unprofessional manner toward meeting staff, contractors, other attendees, or hotel or convention-center staff will be required to leave the meeting and may have their registration rescinded without refund. In extreme cases, the AAS may call law-enforcement authorities and/or pursue legal action.

Note that all sessions except those marked “private” by the AAS are open to all registered attendees, including scientists, educators, students, journalists, and guests. All are due the same level of professional respect and courtesy. Only with your help can we ensure the most productive scientific conference.

Computers & Internet Service

The AAS provides wireless Internet service throughout each meeting, but we cannot guarantee full coverage in all locations. We provide priority access in the common areas. This means you may experience limited connectivity in the session rooms.

If you do make use of wireless Internet access during a presentation, or even if you are just taking notes on your computer, please keep your activities as quiet as possible so as to minimize distractions to other attendees and the speaker. If you must use a computer during a session, please consider sitting near the back of the room so as not to distract the speaker or session chair. These same guidelines apply to mobile phones, tablets, and other electronic devices.

One of the cost drivers for meeting registration is provision of adequate bandwidth, which — believe it or not — costs tens of thousands of dollars per meeting. Excessive downloading or uploading of files, software updates, streaming video, and other bandwidth-hungry activities (e.g., gaming, exploring virtual worlds) increases the costs for all attendees. The AAS reserves the right to ban excessive users from its meeting network and to use site blocking, port blocking, and traffic shaping to ensure adequate bandwidth for all.

Mobile Phones & Related Devices

Cell phones, tablets, pagers, and similar electronic devices should be silenced. Before each session begins and before you enter an active session, please silence your cell phone and any other devices that have audible alerts. Switching phones to vibrate rather than ring is not sufficient, as the vibrations can be heard or felt by those nearby.

Do not dial or take a phone call during a session. Please exit the session room before beginning or answering a call. All modern mobile phones have caller-ID and call-back features — please make use of them.

Blogging & Tweeting

If you blog, tweet, or otherwise post near-real-time material from the meeting online, you must follow the guidelines above concerning the use of computers, tablets, mobile phones, and AAS wireless bandwidth.

Please do not publicly report private conversations — only scheduled presentations and public comments are fair game for blogging, tweeting, etc.

Remember that many presentations at AAS meetings concern work that has not yet been peer-reviewed. So think twice before posting a blog entry or tweet that is critical of such work. It is helpful to receive constructive criticism during the Q&A after your talk or while standing next to your poster, but it is hurtful to be raked over the coals online before your session is even over and with no easy way to respond.

New York Times editor Bill Keller said it well. When it comes to meetings among colleagues, he explained, “We need a zone of trust, where people can say what is on their minds without fear of having an unscripted remark or a partially baked idea zapped into cyberspace. Think of it as common courtesy.”

Sessions & Questions

If you are giving a presentation, please be sure you have read our speaker and AV instructions. All oral presentations must be uploaded to the internal network in the Speaker Ready Room. Personal laptops and USB drives will not be permitted for presentations in session rooms. We ask that you upload your presentation at least 24 hours in advance. Be sure to show up at your session on time.

The session chair is in charge of the session. He or she is empowered to stop questioning and to rearrange or otherwise adjust time slots (or not) based on tardiness or non-attendance of a scheduled speaker. The chair cannot extend talk times beyond the common limits of 10 minutes for regular contributions and 20 minutes for dissertation contributions (including time allotted for Q&A).

When asking questions of speakers please be professional, courteous, and polite. This is especially important when questioning students presenting their dissertation research.

Be considerate of other people wishing to ask questions. If you have multiple or detailed questions, speak with the presenter after the session.

Journalists & Embargoes

If your presentation covers results that have been, or will be, submitted to Nature or Science or any other journal with a strict embargo policy, be sure you understand how that policy applies to scientific meetings. No journal wishes to hinder communication between scientists. For example, both Science and Nature state explicitly that conference presentations do not violate their embargo policies.

Both journals also state that if your presentation covers work that has been, or will be, submitted to them, you should limit your interaction with reporters to clarifying the specifics of your presentation. As Science puts it, “We ask that you do not expand beyond the content of your talk or give copies of the paper, data, overheads, or slides to reporters.” That does not mean you should be rude if a reporter asks you for such materials or poses a question that you do not want to answer — just explain that your results are under embargo at Science or Nature, and the reporter will understand why you cannot be more forthcoming. (Read the full embargo policy for AAS meetings.)


Photography & Video

Many events and presentations at AAS meetings are recorded for posterity by a Society photographer. Some sessions, and all press conferences, are videotaped and eventually posted on the AAS members website as a member benefit. Your attendance at an AAS meeting signifies your agreement to be photographed or videotaped in the course of normal meeting business. Invited and prize lecturers will be asked to sign a form for legal clarity.

If you take pictures during the meeting, please be considerate of others. Do not use a flash when taking pictures during sessions.

Eating, Drinking & Smoking

Because our meetings are so full of great content, it can be hard to find time to eat breakfast or lunch. If you must eat or drink while attending a session, please do so quietly and be sure to deposit your trash properly after the session ends. Additional cleaning services cost the AAS money and increase registration costs.

Some venues have strict policies against eating or drinking in particular areas. Meeting attendees are expected to follow these policies. Attendees may not bring their own alcoholic beverages or drink them at the meeting venue outside of areas or times when they are sold. Obviously this does not apply to bars, restaurants, or other facilities co-located with our meeting venues.

AAS meetings are strictly non-smoking, consistent with laws in the localities where we hold our conferences. When possible, smoking areas will be clearly identified.

Kevin B. Marvel
Executive Officer
American Astronomical Society
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