There are some conferences you look forward to for the opportunity to absorb the latest trends in your field, share your own findings and immerse yourself in spirited discussion with like-minded colleagues.
For thousands of demographers, sociologists, economists and public health professionals, the annual meeting of the Population Association of America this week in Washington was that kind of event.
The conference brought together academics and professionals in population research and education to share information on topics you'd expect to be of interest to that group: fertility, sexual behavior, race, ethnicity, mortality, race, ethnicity, gender, urbanization, inequality, development and applied demography, to name a few.
The conference comes during a banner year for such experts, whose expertise is in high demand from scholars, analysts and reporters, for help deciphering 2010 census data. Several sessions hit upon prominent themes to come out of the 2010 analysis so far, among them, "Immigrant Integration and Assimilation," "The Context of Cohabiting Unions" and "Baby Boomers Turn 65."
"The conference is going well - record attendance, interesting sessions and special events," Mary Jo Hoeksema, PAA's director of government and public affairs, said in an enthusiastic e-mail from the conference Saturday. "Congresswoman [Carolyn] Maloney addressed the conferees last night and pledged her support for federal statistical agencies and the importance of collecting accurate data! Our president, Dr. David Lam, gave his address analyzing myths and realities surrounding the post-war world population boom."
A scan of the event's website exhibited the thorough and exacting nature population experts are known for: a list of the conference's 198 sessions organized by topic, program summary or participants, complete with a short bio, contact information and links to the papers for nearly all of the 2,452 registered attendees.
Miss a session? Don't worry, there's an app for your smartphone which lets you view the complete program online.
But the main draw, it seemed, for most was the opportunity to learn from each other.
"I think the conference is an exciting opportunity to meet the scholars whose work I read and admire. I'm also both thrilled and flattered by the opportunity to present my own research," said Ryan Finnegan, a Ph.D. sociology student at Duke University and author of "Racial and Ethnic Inequality in Home Value and Homeownership Dynamics."
"Aside from meeting big name scholars, I enjoy the energy and passion surrounding others' work and new developments in the field," Finnegan said in an e-mail from the conference.