All Souls College, Oxford, is primarily a research institution without any undergraduate members. So, even though Philip has spent 7 years in Oxford both as an undergraduate and a postdoc he had not entered the hallowed halls prior to this interdisciplinary conference. The question was how complex life evolved and the goal was to bring together geochemists and palaeontologists. Thirty thereof answered the call.
The first day was the geochemistry day looking at the environment in which complex life can and does evolve. On the second day the floor was taken by the palaeontologists looking at just how complex that life is. What did our principal researcher take away from this? When asked his first answer was: That I never, ever, want to see another fossil again. (Really, this should not have been a surprise to him as I remember him finishing his third year exams with that sentiment but then he might have forgotten, age creeping up on him and all…).
On a more serious note it seems that there is still a lot of space for improvement when it comes to communication between the fields, one thing the conference tried to tackle. When the geochemists spoke, the palaeontologists lacked the basic building blocks of subject specific conventions and language – and vice versa. Possibly one of the most positive outcomes of the conference is not only that this is being addressed through increased interdisciplinary functions and research but the fact that following the conference dinner various speakers went away to rewrite their talks to make them more accessible to the other side.
So, aside from the important contribution this conference has brought to the state of research in regards to opening eyes and minds to the other side, what did it show us and our project? No matter how much research there already is there is still a lot to do for we still are very hazy on how complex life made it past the simple organism stage.