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  • My experience at Xgen conference in San Diego, CA March 2011

    My experience at Xgen conference in San Diego, CA March 2011

    Hi all. Since this a forum dedicated to people interested Next Gen sequencing technology and applications, people may also be interested in events on this topic. I attended such a meeting called the Xgen congress organized by Cambridge Healthtech and would like to share my views. I hope some of you would find it useful.

    I am an early career researcher interested in sequencing data analysis and I went in with the expectation to learn about that, and the people in the field. Please consider the statements below are just my personal opinion which may be biased due to what I was expecting from the conference. Feel free to respond comment and make your own additions.

    1. I think it was overpriced, hefty $1145 for academics and $2745 for the industry, and this is just the registration.

    2. It was located in a resort which is kind of in isolated surroundings so you are kind of restricted to spend for food and other needs there, which was overly priced. The resort as such was nothing special, just your regular hotel rooms because you pay for everything else if you want to use. Parking was $25 for each day + tax, so not many people opted for that option, especially younger people who are dependent on their PI's grant support.

    3. it all started when the lady who declared the commencement of meeting, she spend less than a minute to do so and the mic was not working. Since I was sitting in first row, i could hear she was welcoming all participants. The attitude of the organizers was very unwelcoming, it was more like they already got the money so it was going through the motions as they say in America.

    4. Organization of the program was very poor. They did not have the timing there till last moment, and they had four sub-sessions which was quite unclear why. The end results, they had parallel sessions going on for chip-seq and RNA-seq, both of which i wanted to attend. Later on they had plant sequencing and some company product demo in parallel which was both uninteresting for me. I understand it can be hard to cater to everybody's needs, but you must be kidding if you think chip-seq and RNA-seq should be run in parallel. Either they didn't want to put time and thought, or they just didn't know any better.

    5. Speaker were generally good when it came to general topics, some big and really bright people in the field. Speaker were also good for specific technical talks. The only complaint I have is the talks could have been more educations : like a tutorial on library preparation steps, may be a data analytical overview. All we heard was people telling us about their own research, like any other conference. May be I am being harsh here but i was expecting something along those lines. I saw one such talk in the program, but i came to know that i should pay addition 400 dollars to register for that one talk, despite having the highest premium package registration which should allow me to attend everything.
    The other thing is some of the speaker were very young researchers, and some were not very proficient in english. I overheard someone that did not understand even a single word in one of the talks. It could have been better planned. I hope they payed good compensation to those at least for the talks, or were they saving moolah and inviting just about anyone to speak who would do it for free. No offense to any of the speakers though, they were probably just doing what they were asked. It is for organizers to select good speakers. I have met lot of very very talented people who are not great speakers. I will again concede that i am not a very proficient speaker myself, but again I don't Charge people 2800 dollars to come listen to me.

    6. Food and refreshment were a big disappointment. On risk of being labeled stingy, I concede that food is an important factor for me especially if you are spending one week at some place and you have not many options around you. Not a single warm meal was served, lunch was mostly cold sandwiches and chips, which we all ate in extremely uncomfortable manner on our seat listening to some talk. Except for first few rows, we did not even have a table to keep these things on. Why can't they have had lunch break, I will tell you why, since they did not book any space for that. Many times people did not even get lunch, i saw one organizer scolding a participant when he asked for lunch coupon because it was all over and she plainly said you should have get it first. Poor fellow, either he misses the talk and goes out to eat at resort's overpriced restaurant, or stay their hungry listening to other people crack the rock hard potato chips. He chose the latter option. Welcome reception meant drinks and few snacks near the poster session at around 6 PM.
    They had some breakfast sort of thing in the morning, which is worse than what my car dealership routinely serves. At time, there was no coffee, can u imagine. The organizers ofter used to be at the door of the breakfast room to steer people away from there towards the conference.

    7. Lot of us got the feeling that they were not very forthcoming. It was more like as I said earlier, we have your money already so why we bother serving anymore. There is no list of attendees anywhere for any of their conferences, probably for the fear of people sharing the experience with future participants. there is a web resource intronet for participants, that too is you can just find affiliation and not the names, seems too much a hassle to reach someone. It felt like a corporate event meant for money making. Have some big names to attract audience, and then invite people to present posters and give talks, to fill the blanks. In return, award them a 50 dollar discount in registration. They had a contest in which you should fill a review of the conference and one lucky winner will get iPOD. that how they got all good reviews from attendees as a legal proof against any possible outburst (like my comments here ). When it came to announce the winner, the lady said It is not required for winner to be present to receive the prize. the next moment she announced a name which no one knew even attended the conference. She made sure to slip in how nice would it have been to see the face of the winner, but guess what, there was no iPAD to be seen anywhere. You think somethings fishy ....

    First conference I attended where no conference bag was given to anyone.

    No abstract book was published for posters and oral talks.

    8. the only saving grace, for me, were the corporate sponsors. They very were nice and eager to help and provide info. From giants to small startups. illumina, roche, ingenuity you just name it .... They must be expecting good business from attendees, which is fair. Seems they generously sponsored many of the expense including lunches, drinks etc. I just hope they got some returns and the event organizers did not fool them too, on the pretext that lot of people will be attendance who will buy stuff and all ... Now when i think about it, it is brilliant business plan.

    Anyways, hope I haven't been too critical because believe me, its just a part of what we really experienced. Given a chance again, i will utilize the same money to attend some good research meeting like ASHG ISMB etc. Would love to hear form others too, i may be way way off
    Last edited by analyst; 04-08-2011, 10:47 AM.

  • #2
    hmmm, thanks for sharing the experience. I was wondering how those Cambridge Healthtech conferences were when I received their email invites. It was too expensive for me to attend so I have not been to one yet.


    • #3
      I totally agree with Analyst, I would not go to a Cambridge Health Tech Event again. It was overpriced.

      Most of the good speakers took off right after finishing their talks.
      They were asking for extra money for the tutorials.
      The only event I liked was the Java and Jive but it was only for 1 hour.

      Yes food was bad, and no conference bag/Tshirt etc were given. Hotel was isolated and overpriced for the amenities. The bay waters, near the hotel are calm. In all neither the conference or the hotel made any waves for me.
      Last edited by cdry7ue; 04-11-2011, 07:31 AM. Reason: English


      • #4
        Thanks a lot for this comment. I am not surprised at all, I once attended a free webinar from healthtech and even that was a pure waste of time. Plus they spam like hell.


        • #5
          Thanks for the insights.
          Is it me or we are getting into a surge of these kind of "for-profit" conferences organized by obscure commercial organisations where scientific interest is just an excuse to make money? I never pay attention to conference announcements that are not organised by a known and reputed scientific society. I may miss some good stuff but I feel safer.
          Hi there


          • #6
            Totally agree with your comments Sorcerer.

            btw, talking about commercialization and money making, i was shocked to see that they are now selling CD of Xgen conference talks on on their website.

            They divided 5 days event into 4 separate conferences (this explains the awkward division into 4 sub-sections i said in my earlier review), and each CD is priced at $995 for institution license


            • #7
              That is sooooo true for any of the CHI (Cambridge Healthtech Institute, aka, conferences! I attended a NGS meeting in RI organized by CHI last year. Exact same experience. Expensive, poor meeting organization, No wifi (WTF?!), bad food, too many talks from the commercial vendors and squeezed scientific talks.

              I'll definitely avoid any CHI meetings in the future.


              • #8
                CHI conferences are overpriced and underscienced. I never go to them.


                • #9
                  I gave a talk at that conference. Did you see get to see it?

                  It seemed to me to be a very corporate event, to be honest.

                  Biology of Genomes, the Personalized Medicine one later in the year and ASHG are all great conferences for academics, by the way.
                  Mendelian Disorder: A blogshare of random useful information for general public consumption. [Blog]
                  Breakway: A Program to Identify Structural Variations in Genomic Data [Website] [Forum Post]
                  Projects: U87MG whole genome sequence [Website] [Paper]


                  • #10
                    I also got "invitations" to talk at a couple of conferences by "bitconferences". They use pompous names such as "1st Annual Symposium of Antiparasites" and "1st Annual World Congress of Marine Biotechnology" (yes, they are always "1st" for some reason). Invitations to talk don't come with any perks and they even charge for hanging a poster. I don't have references but they also look like 'for-profit-not-for-science' conferences
                    Hi there


                    • #11
                      I would like to comment on behalf of Cambridge Healthtech Institute (CHI). First, I apologize that you did not have a good experience at the X-Gen Congress & Expo event and left with a negative impression of CHI.

                      Our goal at CHI is to recruit industry leaders to develop and deliver strong scientific programming, and to provide networking opportunities to encourage the advancement of life sciences and future collaborations. CHI has been running sequencing related conferences since 1994 and we are greatly appreciative of the legacy we’ve developed and the loyal following we have.

                      We understand the expenses involved to attend a conference and strive to keep our registration fees affordable. To provide attendees budget options and the ability to choose programs that meet their scheduling and research needs, we offer multiple pricing tiers competitive with other organizations’ meetings, incentives such as group rates and alumni discounts. We also understand that some people are unable to attend conferences due to schedule conflicts or budget restrictions; therefore we offer the proceedings on CD.

                      Although there are many factors taken into consideration when choosing a venue to host our events such as allocated space, floor plans, contract policies, proximity to airports, and regional weather patterns, we always consider the costs accrued by our participants. We work diligently with convention bureaus to negotiate packages to accommodate all parties as best we can. Since the hotel was not downtown, we provided sponsored breakfasts and lunches, as well as free buses downtown for dinner so that attendees would have many options for meals.

                      CHI strives to achieve high-level customer experience. We greatly appreciate your feedback and will explore implementing your suggestions to improve our strategy and future relations.


                      • #12
                        Can you tell us why proceedings CDs cost big $s even for attendees. I have been to several IEEE meetings before jumping into bioinformatics. Free proceedings + CD is a given to all attendees, so is a banquet on one of the nights.

                        @ CHI even the cold boxed lunches were at a premium, I was turned away once since I was too busy talking and networking and did not get a blue ticket in time.

                        The shuttles were a nice touch though.


                        • #13
                          CHI provides a conference proceeding link prior to the event start date so delegates are able to review the materials and plan their schedule accordingly to attend preferred presentations, we also provide a link post show with all updated presentations opposed to distributing an incomplete and dated CD onsite. The process is timely and requires many resources.

                          We are currently implementing discounted rates for registered participants to purchase the conference CD. If you have any questions, or are interested in these rates please contact me directly.


                          • #14
                            It is nice to see that someone at CHI has responded. hope the points many of us have mentioned will be considered for future meeting and that way participants will benefit most.

                            I still have few queries/comments about your response:

                            Originally posted by LifeScienceMarketing View Post
                            CHI provides a conference proceeding link prior to the event start date so delegates are able to review the materials and plan their schedule accordingly to attend preferred presentations.
                            Actually I was not aware that this information was available before conference as at one point i was hoping to find this but could not. It is possible I did not search after this link was online, although I expected an email communication from CHI when that happened. The only email I ever received from CHI was to confirm receipt of payment.

                            By conference proceedings (and material), I believe you are referring powerpoint presentations of the speakers, or was there some other information there too.

                            Originally posted by LifeScienceMarketing View Post
                            we also provide a link post show with all updated presentations opposed to distributing an incomplete and dated CD onsite.
                            You say "all updated presentations" now you know and all those who attended know, that is not true. Many presentations were not available, in fact, most of the interesting ones I looked for were not available.

                            There are 2 possibilities which I imagine:
                            1. Some presentations were unavailable to participants but are only for sale in CD.


                            2. The CD does not have all the presentation material that was covered in the conference.

                            Since I did not (and will not) buy CD, I don't know which is true.

                            Originally posted by LifeScienceMarketing View Post
                            The process is timely and requires many resources.
                            It can be simpler if CHI asks all presenters to submit final version of their talks few days in advance. After all, the presenters were also attendees for other talks and I am sure they will find this approach very useful. There can always be addendum on the website in unusual situations.
                            Last edited by analyst; 05-23-2011, 08:06 AM.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by analyst View Post
                              It can be simpler if CHI asks all presenters to submit final version of their talks few days in advance. After all, the presenters were also attendees for other talks and I am sure they will find this approach very useful. There can always be addendum on the website in unusual situations.
                              They can always ask; I'm a terrible one at actually having my slides ready ahead of time (they actually ask for them a week or so in advance). I did finally decide that further edits would be damaging -- about an hour before my session.

                              On a more positive note, Steve Lincoln of Complete Genomics actually quoted the previous talk in his BioIT World talk back in April.


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