Electronic posters have pros and cons

March 9, 2003

Many of the pictures and paintings shown in the ECR publications this year are from Crete. The meeting's president, N. Gourtsoyiannis, works in Iraklion, the capital of this island. Here, beginning about 4000 years ago, the remarkable civilization known

Many of the pictures and paintings shown in the ECR publications this year are from Crete. The meeting's president, N. Gourtsoyiannis, works in Iraklion, the capital of this island. Here, beginning about 4000 years ago, the remarkable civilization known today as Minoan developed, flowered, and declined. It was the first great civilization on European soil.

Minoan art is the most cheerful and gracious of all the arts in antiquity. There are no scenes of bloody battles; Minoan frescoes are fresh and natural.

Until this year, the frescoes shown at the ECR were of a different style: scientific posters. This spring in Vienna, there are no posters. As Professor Gourtsoyiannis writes, a new era of scientific exhibits is heralded by EPOS, the electronic poster online system.

Posters usually contain more scientific information than eight-minute oral presentations; you can check and digest the contents at your mental pace and even come back to them at a later time during the conference. I like well-made posters; they are an excellent means to transport information in a compact way. And if posters are ugly, it does not mean they are bad.

Here are some comments I overheard at the exhibition: "If I get the entire scientific contents delivered by computer, why travel to Vienna?" "It is easier to digest the contents of a paper poster than those of an onscreen poster." "A meeting without 'real' posters loses its unhurried mode of meeting and talking to other people in front of the poster."

I do not completely agree with all those comments, but the last one is true. The atmosphere in the poster-viewing area is subdued, as in a cathedral or a university library. Nobody talks; everybody stares at her or his computer screen and tiptoes out of the area when finished.

There are of course numerous advantages that have been presented in detail by the organizers. As I see it, there is an additional genuine asset: It is difficult to distinguish poorer from richer institutes. In paper posters you can have graphically poorly made presentations and displays where you see that money was not a limiting factor. Although it might sound inconsistent with computer graphics technology, EPOS with its computer-based presentations could become an equalizer and allow a stronger focus on contents than on appearance.

I would like to send sincere applause and congratulations to all those who contributed to making EPOS succeed. However, nowadays many people confuse tools and contents.

At the end of the meeting we will see whether onscreen posters were really an improvement, or if they might become a way for fast and poor abstract publications.

"EPOS", explained Professor Gourtsoyiannis, "is Greek for an epic feat."

I am looking forward to next year's staging of ECR's EROS era.