15 April 2012
By Blanka Sengerová
Our department is about to have an awayday, where speakers from different parts of the institute (PIs, postdocs and PhD students) talk about their work. Part of the reason is for the advisory board to hear about what is going on in the department research wise (it happens in spring every year, the first one I attended was at the end of my first week at work), but another part is for us to learn about what goes on in different departments of the institute. There is also a poster session over an extended lunch, intended for us to mix and discuss our research
Problem is that there is a wide range of research that goes on - we are in Molecular Oncology, others include Immunology, Haematology and Neuroscience - and that people find it hard to follow what others' talks are about when not in their immediate area, not helped by the lack of targetting talks at a general enough audience. When the day was held in the building adjacent to the institute it often meant people came to the talks from their department and rushed off to develop their Western blots, run gels and similar in between and at lunch, instead of listening to all talks and going to look at the posters. Which is not the point. This year, to avoid this (I suspect), the day is being held at the business school at the other side of town and the institute is declared shut for the day (essentially) to encourage people to stay for the whole day. (On the grapevine, I hear that this is partly also for cost reasons as the new location is cheaper, I think, but that is by the by).
I think it is a shame that such 'drastic' steps have to be resorted to, because I think people ought to be interested in what goes on in the lab across the corridor. But I do admit it is partly the fault of the speakers - often they don't modify their talk for the appropriate audience, not simplifying enough for talking to those outside their field (and PIs tend to be much worse than PhD students). Other than better talk preparation during such days, what can be done to improve interaction and understanding between varied departments within one building? Maybe the posters should also be simplified rather than reusing those from the conference last month as tends to be the case? But who is going to produce a new poster for what they regard as an unimportant event?