A Truly Gigantic Scientific Meeting — AGU

By Chris Mooney | December 12, 2010 9:12 am

san-franciscoI just learned last night that the numbers are still rising and now 19,200 people are expected to attend the AGU fall meeting here in San Francisco. And maybe by the end it will get to the magic number–20,000.

That doesn’t make it the biggest scientific conference in the world. The Society for Neuroscience annual meeting is considerably larger, though their numbers seem to be falling from a peak of nearly 35,000 in 2005.

Still, the scale of the AGU event is pretty staggering. For geoscientists, it is definitely the place you have to be every year.

Are there any other scientific meetings, besides AGU and Neuroscience, that get this large I wonder?

P.S.: I should add, it is my understanding that this will be AGU’s largest meeting ever, and thus also the largest geosciences meeting in the world…


Comments (6)

  1. Rich W

    SIGGRAPH (a computer science conference focusing on graphics) attracted over 22K last year.

  2. Lynn

    Experimental Biology is usually around 13K, which is at least the same order of magnitude, but might not count because it’s a combination of 6 independent societies: The American Association of Anatomists, The American Physiological Society, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, American Society for Investigative Pathology, American Society for Nutrition, and American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.

  3. Eric the Leaf

    I’m partial to small meetings. Back in the day I loved the International Symposia on the Mesolithic in Europe. There were only a few tens of us in the world and we generally occupied but a single lecture hall and mostly dined together. On the other hand, it was tougher to slip out unnoticed during the day in the event that the previous evening’s festivities caught up with you. We drank heavily and on one occasion in Scotland the east Europeans brought in shopping carts of vodka and meats, the latter of which were often scarce in their home countries. Nights were spent in small parties in the dorms of the host universities and singing around the piano–belting out songs in various languages. The occasional pianist among us would crank out some Brahms or Schubert. I miss those days. I hear they don’t party like they used to.

  4. Eric the Leaf

    By the way, has anyone ever witnessed the setup and dismantling of the exhibit halls at a large conference? I have seen this on numerous occasions and the process is truly staggering. And to think this occurs weekend in and weekend out as meetings come and go. When large conferences become increasingly problematic, the economic consequences will certainly be significant.

  5. Peter Dimitriou

    AAG (American Association of Geographers) is also a very large Organization, this years meeting will be in Seattle in April taking over the entire Washington State Convention center as well as the Seattle Sheraton. Numbers escape me but this one usually is large!!!


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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs.For a longer bio and contact information, see here.


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