Unsolicited Advice: Meeting Reports

My postdoc advisor had a terrific habit that I have shamelessly stolen and use frequently. When he attended a Gordon Conference/CSH meeting/and the like, he would send me (and others in the lab) emails at convenient intervals summarizing the interesting talks that he attended during that session or day. Needless to say, I like to have my finger on the pulse of what is going on in my field- so I ate up these emails. When he returned from whatever meeting he was attending he would co-opt lab meeting, and give a rundown of all of the talks that he found interesting or relevant to what we were working on.

I have taken this habit and practice it in my own style… Since I was in professional school back in the dark ages before paperless curricula, and syllabi that contain the lecturer’s every utterance were not even a twinkle in anyone’s eye- I am an incessant note-taker. When I worked in industry and couldn’t take my lab notebook of the premises- I developed a habit of carrying one of those bound composition notebooks (the cheap ones) – at that time for thoughts about experiments, notes on papers etc. That habit has stuck with me, and now I drag one of those notebooks with me to every seminar and every scientific meeting (these notebooks are great because when you have a full one you can put in those little sticky tabs so you can find things easily… or you could just do this on a laptop like the rest of the 21st century universe). I send my lab members updates from meetings by email, and when I return I give a summary of everything that I picked up, not only for my lab- but for a group of 3 labs with similar/complementary interests to ours. This exercise serves two purposes for my people…it’s still shocking to me that I actually have MY OWN people. First, they get the newest and greatest from the meeting, so hopefully they actually learn something.… but second- they also learn from my example that I have a very serious attitude about scientific meetings (although I’m no saint so there is always a teensy-weensy bit of goofing off they don’t need to hear about), scientific meetings are professional gatherings and are all about business, best behavior and game face on. And, when I come home I try to treat them like a learning experience that goes beyond just me.

When I send a student or postdoc to meeting that I don’t attend, I expect them to deliver a meeting report in similar style to all of us upon their return…

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3 thoughts on “Unsolicited Advice: Meeting Reports

  1. My Ph.D. advisor did the same thing- I agree; meetings are for learning and communicating and to be taken seriously. What a great example you are setting for your “people”.

  2. Kik- Thanks so much for the compliment… I wasn’t fishing…I swear!

    When I was a student it seemed like attendance at meetings was never followed up- which I always thought was a tremendous waste in $$, time and shared information…

    Secondly, now that I have kids I realize how unbelievably important it is to teach by example. I’m not saying I’m a genius at this… but I consciously try anyway.

  3. I really like that idea. It really makes a lot of sense and it impresses upon everyone the importance of scientific meetings.

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