Society for Neuroscience Waves Goodbye to the Big Easy


This October, Bourbon Street was crowded with happy neuroscientists attending the Society for Neuroscience's Annual Meeting. They were celebrating successful talks and poster sessions, meeting up with old friends and colleagues, and getting reacquainted with a city that SfN had not visited since 2003. It was a scientific meeting punctuated by visits to the jazz and barbecue festival, alligator tours by swamp-boat, sips of sazerac and beignets by the bagful overlooking the meandering Mississippi. At the end of the conference, many celebrated what seemed like a fresh start to the relationship between the Society and the Big Easy. Unfortunately, this visit may have been a last farewell instead.

The Society for Neuroscience recently announced its rotation of future meetings through the year 2021, and the Big Easy failed to make the cut.

Describing the divided vote not to return to New Orleans, SfN's board of directors cited unacceptable risk that a major hurricane could hit the city during or just prior to the Society's annual Fall meeting. According to a press release, such a disaster "could seriously jeopardize SfN’s ability to recover and execute a meeting consistent with its mission," but acknowledged that the decision had been "difficult" given the Society's "deep appreciation for the city."

New Orleans was once a staple in the rotation of host cities for the SfN meeting, but the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 forced the Society to cancel plans to hold the conference there in 2006 and 2009, moving these meetings instead to Atlanta and Chicago, respectively. The revitalization of New Orleans since the hurricane encouraged the Society's board of directors to go ahead with a return to the city in 2012. Then, last August, with the Society's first visit to the city in nearly a decade less than 2 months away, Hurricane Isaac, a Category 1 storm, did significant damage hotels and infrastructure needed by the conference organizers. According to the recent press release, Isaac was the beginning of the end for SfN in the Big Easy.

For more, see the original press release: SfN Announces Schedule for Future Annual Meetings

Did you attend SfN 2012 in New Orleans? What are some of your fondest memories? What do you think of the decision not to return? Share your comments below.