The Conference

The conference, everyone agreed, was a massive success.  Ground breaking research and novel ideas were exchanged, numbers noted and contacts made.  The only problem was that no-one could remember the exact details of the lectures or posters presented after the 3 day extravaganza.  Sure there was a round-about idea noted for each talk and each project, but there was no concrete theory or material proof.  It was a conference for, and of, lost souls, of ideas and theories never quite fully formulated or realised in the labs and departments.

Over time the conference gained a certain note of notoriety for the lack of details.  Researchers who had attended joshed with other researchers amid the miasma of forgetfulness, departments struggled to bury the conference notes among the piles of departmental paper output and tenured professors disregarded thoughts of the sessions attended.  However it niggled the attendees as much as they tried to forget it, leaving a certain feeling of unease and worry buried in their minds to pop out at the most importune moments, during lectures, in PhD vivas or during tense talks with funding bodies, but the feelings themselves were never discussed openly, each organisation fearing ridicule and each researcher fearing discredit in their field.  It was agreed then that the conference was a success as communication after the event heralded it, but it was never alluded to after that and the papers were never published in a conference volume.

In time it became an academic legend of the lost, little white lies grew of the value of the research presented, of the wonderful new ideas aired and theories expounded.  It was spoke of in hushed airs in quiet academic pubs, across clusters of pint glasses and gnarled clothing.  A certain ghastly smile became associated with the mentioning of the ghost conference, a knowing look of horror at the loss of hard-earned and shabbily funded research evaporating in a mist of forgetfulness, a wrought slumped feeling of the heart penetrated PhD researchers and tenured professors alike when the conference was alluded to.  By words for it became keywords became little uttered but dreaded words on the lips of academia.

Many years later a new wave of researchers examined the paper trail for the build up to the conference, gathering numerous amounts of data, of research published pertaining to, and referencing, the conference.  The data was examined and added to a growing database for analysis.  Yet upon each and every view key intrinsic details were missing, blurred, it seemed, with a magic marker.  No sense could be made of the notes as a body of work, yet no paper could be understood by itself.  Try as they might the researchers could not contact or find any surviving attendees to interview for cross-examination.  It remained an academic malaise, causing unfiltered discomfort in the ranks of the current crop of researchers who had not dared think that knowledge could be lost, could be cast aside, or could be forgotten.

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