At the end of June, I was in Boston for the 2nd International Conference on Computational Sustainability. I think it had to be the most interesting conference I’ve attended to date; not only did I attend all but one session, I also managed to stay awake for each. The one session I skipped was to compose myself before the poster session — I was cold from the over-airconditioned space and tired from having arrived at my Boston domicile at 2 am that morning, more than 15 hours after leaving Toronto by bus (the driver for the last segment of my trip got lost… twice). During this time, I did manage to update the HTML5 version of Inflo (more about this in another blog) and get a fully-working read-only demo running (or another demo graph).
The topics covered at the conference were extremely diverse — from oceanographic monitoring to ensuring sufficient up- and downstream electrical storage capacity from electric vehicles through fleet management. With such breadth, hopefully many new collaborations will ensue. However, at some of the talks, I was under the impression that computational sustainability (an admittedly vague term) was not at the fore of the minds of some of the researchers when the research was being conducted and that the talks had been twisted from their real focus. Indeed, this feeling was supported by a few attendees with whom I spoke; they had previously seen some of the talks under the guise of ways of increasing wealth/productivity. While I don’t object to the creation of an energy generation derivatives market and getting a ROI through green technologies, I’d prefer the speakers to be up front about it.
It was worth the trip to Boston and what I’d like to see the next time I attend this conference is a larger involvement from industry and a more international gathering. Industry is solving many of the problems the research community is tackling in different ways and vice versa; bringing some of the major players together would likely yield some useful collaborations. I noticed the presence of Google, Microsoft, and IBM, but there are certainly more companies that should be brought into the mix. As for the international presence, despite the close proximity to Canada, I met one other Cannuck at the conference (and a student from France over at UBC for a few months); other, farther, countries didn’t fare any better. Oh well. At least the carbon footprint for travel was smaller.