Traveling with colleagues and students to one of the major scientific meeting in our field.
Year after year, one word come to mind: exciting!
After all these years, there are a few elements that always get my attention.
- Networking: seeing again friends and colleagues I made through out the years. Meeting new ones. I always tell students that in general participants are eager to share at these events and they should not hesitate to connect.
- Putting your new ideas to the test: this is another important reason to go to meeting. You make your latest work public and see how it stand, how other react to it. Most of the time, you learn something new or see your work in a new light. It is very refreshing and stimulating.
- A different setting provides new brainstorming opportunities either by yourself or with colleagues. As you are away from your day to day life, available “quality” time to actually think is inevitably increased. I always find these trip productive in generating new ideas and I usually come back with a long list of thing to look at or do.
- Seeing students present in front of an expert audience, questions being asked and how the students answered. The discussions that ensued after the their talk are also very interesting. Let’s face it, you may be a great supervisor but they need to get a variety of views, just like you get when you go to meetings!
For the students in our group, we make the rule very clear and easy. If we decide (student-supervisor talk!) it is time to submit your work to a meeting and you get an oral presentation, we will make every effort to spare the money to send you to that meeting. For posters, it all depends on the number of orals and budget. By making the rule clear with them at the start, it removes any notion of arbitrary decision.
For us, we would like all of our students to obtain oral presentations but like any competitive processes, only a small fraction of participants falls in that category. This is why we make a big deal when students get these type of presentations and this is why we work hard with them to write the materials used by the reviewer to rank the submission…and work hard afterward on the presentation materials and rehearsing.
Of course, while it might be seen as a vacation opportunity by the students they quickly discover that presenting at meeting comes with its own pressure…publishing the final work in a peer-reviewed journal as quickly as possible now that the idea is out in the open 😉
More importantly, what the students get out of these meetings in term of building their networks, extracting new research ideas and so on depends entirely on their own effort they put in. That in it self is quite telling of a PhD student.