–by T. “Isaac” Meyer, Head of Strategic Planning & Communication
I am on location in Kolkata, India, at the Variable Energy Cyclotron Centre (VECC). It took me 36 hours travel time to get here from Vancouver, including two red-eye plane flights. It feels like 42 deg C outside and the computer firewalls are configured so that I cannot send or receive e-mail from my laptop. And the tap water is not potable.
Why did I come?
To have breakfast with scientific peers from around the world (RIKEN in Japan, ESS in Sweden, Cockcroft Institute in the UK, VECC and IUAC and BARC here in India, and so on). Okay, not just breakfast. Also a few lunches and dinners.
Of course, we actually came together to participate in the International Advisory Committee meeting for VECC and its proposed ANURIB project and the subsequent VECC/TRIUMF semiannual collaboration meeting. It still sounds like a cliché, but the reason we attend these meetings in person is because of the sidebar conversations.
At a single breakfast meeting with three colleagues, I got updated on the budget situation for UK science, learned why Higgs spectroscopy is so intrinsically compelling that its worth several billion dollars, reviewed Japanese recovery from the earthquake & tsunami, debated “coal smuggling” in West Bengal, speculated on the international flow of in-demand talented workers in accelerator physics & engineering, and re-learned the rules for scoring in cricket. I also drank four cups of masala tea.
In global computing and networking, the experts still say, “Never underestimate the bandwidth of an overnight package stuffed full of DVDs.”
In global science, I’d say, “Never underestimate the amount of collaboration & partnership that is supported by flying people 10,000 miles to share a coffee break.”