On a conference call about a conference in the planning stages, we learn as a group that the organizers have locked in Angry Old Man as their keynote speaker.
We are taking turns suggesting speakers for the various sessions. At the end of her turn, one of the other contributors says “I am curious what others, especially labmonkey, think about the keynote choice”. There are two others on the call who express reservations. I express significant reservations, from both my personal perspective (I don’t want to be on an organizing committee that gives him a platform for his ire) and an objective perspective (his angry tirade has been commented on as a terrible talk in several locations – not what you want for a keynote). I say I am disappointed in this choice.
The organizers squirm, but, as another contributor points out, it is hard to rescind an invitation. An idea is born to have counter-point speakers in the next session, to provide some balance. I suggest some speakers. Notably, I cannot attend this meeting to defend my work because I am on leave at that time – Spud will only be 2.5 months old. A peril of being young and female, neither of which AOM must deal with.
I am angry. I said no to being on this committee, citing parental leave as an excuse. “Not to worry”, they said. “We’ll have all our conference calls before January”, they said, sending me the doodle poll to state my availability for this call in the same breath – before I had agreed to join. I like this organization, and have existing and long standing collaborations with them, so I picked my battle (again, having already picked it when declining initially…). With that as backdrop, I’m even angrier about this keynote speaker choice. If my opinion was so sought after that a polite no was ignored, then a fait accompli of Angry Old Man as the featured scientist is a second insult.
I am tired of this. I have not had an academic enemy before, and certainly never one that was highly placed and well respected. I do not know how to lay it to rest other than to keep my head down and do good work, and let his irrational anger trip himself up. A strategy that might sound familiar, as it was used to great effect on Monday night on a world stage. I guess I’ll find out in November if it is a winning one.