It’s quite possible that the full-throated value of a scientific meeting for your science is only realized once you are a PI.

It is not infrequent that I come back from scientific meetings all in a tizzy to do one of three things.

1) Put the hurry up on pumping out some data that we’ve been collecting.

2) Start new experiments! Several. We gotta get on this right now people so let’s moooooove!

3) Write two or three new grant proposals.

The reasons are varied but it all comes down to the constellation of encouragements you get at a conference through talking with various people about your data and their own data.

This is why we do this. Because the science is exciting. And meetings put a thick underline below this experience.

As those of us in the neurosciences prepare for our largest annual scientific gathering, we should attend to a certain little task to assist with the odds of obtaining NIH grant funding. Part of that process is a long game of developing interpersonal relationships with the Program Officers that staff the NIH ICs of interest to our individual research areas. Many scientists find the schmoozing process to be uncomfortable and perhaps even distasteful.

To this I can only reply “Well, do you want to get funded or not?”.

This post originally went up Nov 12, 2008. I’ve edited a few things for links and content.


One of the most important things you are going to do during the upcoming SfN Annual Meeting in Washington DC is to stroll around NIH row. Right?

I have a few thoughts for the trainees after the jump. I did mention that this is a long game, did I not? Read the rest of this entry »

What with the 2012 edition of the Society for Neuroscience meeting rapidly approaching, I thought I’d return to this critical issue in meeting etiquette.

This was originally posted Sept 11, 2008 on the old Scienceblogs version of DrugMonkey.
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Annual scientific meetings have many purposes. One of the most essential purposes that cannot be readily accomplished by other means is the initiation and development of inter-personal relationships. Call it networking, schmoozing or whatever you like. As with any other human enterprise, there are many aspects that are improved by meeting other people face to face and becoming acquainted with them.
There is an aspect of scientific meetings, however, that always presents a very difficult problem for YHN (see Figure 1).

Read the rest of this entry »

Neuropolarbear has a post up suggesting that people presenting posters at scientific meetings should know how to give the short version of their poster.

My favorite time to see posters is 11:55 and 4:55, since then people are forced to keep it short.

If you are writing your poster talk right now, remember to use a stopwatch and make your 5 minute version 5 minutes.

Don’t even practice a longer version.

I have a suggestion.

Ask the person to tell you why they are there! Really, this is a several second exchange that can save a lot of time. For noobs, sure, maybe this is slightly embarrassing because it underlines that even if you have managed to scope out the name successfully you do not remember that this is some luminary in your subfield. Whatever. Suck it up and ask. It saves tremendous time.

If you are presenting rodent behavioral data and the person indicates that they know their way around an intravenous self-administration procedure, skip the methods! or just highlight where you’ve deviated critically from the expected paradigms. If they are some molecular douche who just stopped by because “THC” caught their eye then you may need to go into some detail about what sort of paradigms you are presenting.

Similarly if it is someone from the lab that just published a paper close to your findings, just jump straight to the data-chase. “This part of figure 2 totally explains what you just published”

Trust me, they will thank you.

As Neuropolarbear observes, if you’ve skipped something key, then this person will ask. Poster sessions are great that way.

Watch this video. If you are anything like me, you have essentially zero understanding of what this guy is talking about. To start with. It very rapidly devolves into technical jargon and insider references to things that I don’t really understand.

But you know what?

After awhile you probably kinda-sorta pick up on what is going on and can kinda-sorta understand what he’s telling his audience. I think I am impressed at that part.

Watching this through also makes you realize that a computer-geek presentation really doesn’t differ much from the talks we give in our science subfields. And if you skip through to the Q&A about two-thirds through, you’ll see that this part is familiar too.

I think I may just make this a training video for my scientific trainees.

I decided to go to EB12 so I’ll extend my offer/request from the usual SFN routine.

No promises, but if you drop me a line (drugmnky at the googles) or post your presentation details in the comments, I’ll try to stop by. Might even blog your work!

Also, there may be coffee klatch…interested?

Interesting post up at the haydenlab blog:

In the post-SFN hangover phase, many neuroscientists are in a slightly more anxious state about the possibility that they are about to be scooped. Surely with all those posters, you must have seen someone who has the same brilliant idea in their head as you, right?

With a few exceptions, these fears turn out to be silly. Why?

The author then goes on to list a number of reasons why getting scooped* is not as bad as is usually imagined. I tend to agree** with the points being made. One that is obscured is that in most areas of real science, the paper that does the best job is going to rack up the the respect and citations. Even if it appeared after the very first report of the general phenomenon.

So I tend to think scientists should remember they are playing the long game. And not get too concerned about the possibility that they are about to get scooped.

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*someone else manages to publish an experimental finding that you are working on before you get your paper published.

**the pursuit of GlamourMag science prioritizes the first publication of something over many other factors, including scientific quality and genuine impact, for example.

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