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An animal breeder goes to PAG XXII

As I write this, I'm sitting on a US Airways A320 en route to to San Diego to attend the Plant and Animal Genome XX11 meetings. I've only attended once before, and I'm still trying to get a feel for the whole thing. As an animal breeder, my research is focused on quantitative genetics and genomics in the context of genetic improvement of livestock. So, for me, PAG is much different than the meetings I usually attend, such as the American Dairy Science Association/American Society for Animal Science Joint Annual Meeting, European Association for Animal Production, International Committee for Animal Recording, and World Congress on Genetics Applied to Livestock Production. We're doing a lot more work in my lab with genotype and sequence data, and it's looking like we may even do a little work in the area of epigenetics, so I need to go to PAG to learn more about these subjects. That may be easier said than done.

On my previous trip to PAG I came away with the opinion that it's an excellent "hallway" meeting – meaning that it's worthwhile to go because everyone else is there, and you can get a lot of work done over coffee and lunch. The program was of much more limited interest to me, and looking at this year's agenda leads me to the same conclusion. That's not to say that there aren't good sessions and plenary talks – you simply can't go wrong by having Trudy MacKay on the program – but most of the animal breeding talks are things I've already seen in other settings. So, why am I sitting here, then?

I'm here because PAG presents a chance for me to immerse myself in new ideas and get exposure to areas with which I'm unfamiliar. I think that most of us know how easy it is to fall into a rut as scientists. That scares me because I'm not a Great Brain, and complacency leads to laziness, which in turn leads to work that is irrelevant or trivial. I hope that putting myself into a situation where I'm kind of lost will provide the kind of energy and enthusiasm that's the best antidote to complacency.

I'll let you know how it goes!