Thursday, 11 June 2020

We'll meet again....

Without the pandemic, today would have been the last of 4 days of conferences in Falmouth, beginning with Biomining '20 on Monday, and ending today with Sustainable Minerals '20.
But not to be of course, and we greatly miss getting together with like-minded people from around the world, for formal technical presentations and mingling socially to have a few drinks together and basically getting to know each other.
On-line conferencing is no substitute for this
Networking! The importance of which is now more and more appreciated. Although on-line conferencing is fine, it can never replace face to face meetings, especially for young professionals who need to build up their lists of contacts, and where serendipity is often at work producing life-changing experiences. As Fathi Habashi, Emeritus Professor of Laval University, once said to a group of young people "do not stay in what is called an “ivory tower”. Travelling and attending conferences have enormous, sometimes unexpected benefits.” There is perhaps no better example than this, 25 years ago, at Minerals Engineering '95 in St. Ives, Cornwall from a young engineer from Liner-Design Services in UK:
"Having completed my PhD, I had been travelling for a year and was located in a somewhat penniless state in London. I determined to write up my work for Minerals Engineering and attend your conference to present it. I took on a menial job and Frances and I scraped together every last pound we had to attend the conference. While there I got the first serious airing of my PhD work, and made some crucial contacts. I met Walter Valery, of the JKMRC, Australia, and through him I was offered the JKTech agency for when I got back to South Africa. I also met Prof Cyril O'Connor of the University of Cape Town, the institute through which I had studied for my PhD. He encouraged me to come and start a comminution research group at UCT, to supplement the growing flotation group. These two contacts lead directly to the position I have held for the past 7 years [2002], as Southern African Agent for JKTech, and leader of the comminution research group at UCT. Both facets of my work have developed into a wonderful career."
The young researcher was Prof. Malcolm Powell, now one of the world's most well known comminution specialists, and founder of the Global Comminution Collaborative (GCC). He developed the comminution group at UCT into a world renowned leader in the field, now headed by Prof. Aubrey Mainza, and he is now Chair in Sustainable Comminution, JKMRC, University of Queensland, Australia.
Malcolm Powell (left) with members of the GCC
A great testimony to the value of attending conferences- you never know who you will meet or what will transpire! And yes, we will meet again, hopefully in 2021, and a complete list of MEI Conferences sceduled for next year can be found on MEI Online.


  1. Barry, I am extremely happy on what you wrote ; my views are also the same.
    These video/zoom and what not are not substitutes even to a fraction of what we gain through Conferences we attend.
    I am happy you substantiated with examples from bright professionals.
    These conferences, for me ,tell how little an individual knows and how much more to know. Meeting stalwarts makes one humble. Presentation skills improve and above all gives a great opportunity to develop personal relationships which go a long way in ones professional career.
    All of us don't know what is in store in future---but for me what you conveyed is indisputable.

  2. Nothing, absolutely nothing, will replace human contact.
    Paulo Ferreira, Belem, ParĂ¡, Brazil

  3. My view is that face to face conferences still have a lot of value because of the following:
    1. Ability to have pre-arranged or ad hoc breakout meetings.
    2. Getting to know people beyond the material shared in the conference presentation or workshop share.
    3. I find my ability to concentrate is better (this may vary from person to person) with live interaction.
    4. Establishing and fostering new relationships
    5. The beer in Falmouth.
    In general, online conferences and webinars are great for information sharing, but not for the establishing and growing of professional relationships, which is one of the major additional roles of conferences (in many cases some would view it as the primary role of conferences).
    The presentations is a catalyst for discussion, but the real discussions that lead to research collaboration, or industry insights and opportunities, or funding opportunities, or creative exploration of new ideas, comes from what happens outside the presentations and workshop sessions.
    Last but not least, it is the opportunity to immerse oneself in another culture.

    Jacques Eksteen, Chief Operating Officer at Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre, Australia

    1. Agree wholeheartedly Jacques, particularly regarding point 5. And my feeling has always been that establishing and growing professional relationships is THE primary role of conferences

    2. Absolutely!!!
      Alan Taylor, ALTA Metallurgical Services, Australia

  4. These video /Zoom etc are good if you have a definite agenda and/or a issue to discuss and take conscious decisions--you save time .
    Your Blog is still a great binding force and we learn so much--keep it going, Barry.

  5. Nothing compares with a face to face meeting or conference: more trust, more fun, more human...I strongly vote for “We’ll meet again...”
    Daniel Amariei. COREM, Canada

  6. Yes dear Barry! Hopefully, we could meet each other very soon. Personally I enjoyed a lot to develop and improve my network by contributing at MEI events; you are obviously right my network was significantly developed right after IMPS2008, PIM2010 and IMPC2010 as a young PhD student. Cheers;
    Hamed Haghi, University of Tehran, Iran

  7. Good on you, Hamed; you got it right.
    These interactions on MEI Blog are very informative and this is the only platform where we have full freedom to express and gather knowledge.
    All my wishes to you.

  8. I am looking forward to your next event, they are always excellent!
    Angie Voges, Outotec, South Africa

    1. Thanks Angie. We look forward to seeing you too, hopefully at Comminution '21

  9. Ironic and sad that exactly a week after this posting, Dame Vera Lynn, the singer whose morale-boosting performances during the Second World War earned her the nickname “the Forces’ sweetheart”, died aged 103. Her best-known song, We’ll Meet Again, became such an anthem of national unity that the Queen referred to it in her televised address on the challenges of Covid-19 last month.


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