A run-through of best practices from the Nature archive
By Jack Leeming
This week, one researcher was compelled to write to Nature, to suggest that senior scientists avoid berating their juniors during a conference presentation. Sound advice, but a shame it’s somehow a point of discussion — watching a junior scientist be shouted down at a conference shouldn’t be familiar to most when there are a thousand other, more constructive ways to engage a colleague.
Conferences themselves can be a minefield, even when you’re not being interrogated by a stranger in the front row with alarming knowledge of your ostensibly novel, awaiting-peer-review paper and a brand new six-digit-grant rejection chip on the shoulder. Nevertheless, conferences are how the scientific community operates and something it’s sensible to get good at if you’re hoping to get your own six-figure-grant rejections one day. Here’s how.
1. Prepare properly
Booking a flight and skimming over the conference schedule isn’t all that’s needed to be truly effective at a scientific conference. Target potential collaborators, mentors or future name-dropping resources by packing business cards, paying a bit more attention to who’s speaking when, and deciding who you want to talk to before you touch down and have to find the Wi-Fi password. You get in what you get out, basically, says Amber Dance.
2. Use (or maybe don’t use) Twitter
Social media’s a weird phenomenon at the best of times, and particularly contentious (apart from all the other times it’s particularly contentious) when it comes to scientific conferences. Some organisers go overboard (like, way overboard) when it comes to encouraging the use of Twitter. Others try to block its use entirely. Eileen Parkes reports.
3. Present good posters
4. Present good presentations
5. If it’s broke, fix it
Conferences can have lots of problems — too small or too big; overly interdisciplinary or a scientific echo chamber; too long or not worthwhile. The balance depends on the scientist and the individual. Perhaps drastic, but one group of young PIs found themselves wishing for a new type of conference, so they made one that, by their account, has been an unmitigated success.
And if you recognise the signs of bullying or unconstructive behaviour in science, the onus is on all of us to speak out — cultural change happens slowly, and it takes a concerted effort to start the ball rolling. But a kinder culture of science is something we will all benefit from.
Jack Leeming is the editor of Naturejobs