Monthly Archives: December 2005

How not to be a session moderator at a conference

Leave the session immediately if this happens: Funny and Extreme Videos–Laughing Interview–Funny Video Clip–

From George Sessum by way of ALLIED by Jeneane Sessum.

UPDATE: the comment on Allied explains what they are talking about—-diseases of the larnyx. It makes the video clip even more similar to some academic conferences that I have attended. That moderator did not prepare. It seems less funny now, too.

UPDATE II: According to gary turner, it is fake.

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Academic research: Objective or subjective?

It’s a stupid question—its both.

Getting papers into conferences, published, and cited means that other people are paying attention to your work. You need to have a good idea, the paper must well-written and clear, but most of all, other researchers need to find the work interesting. Interesting to me may not be interesting to you. Even the same idea, or even paper, will be viewed as interesting if written by a one author (with an impressive track record) and uninteresting if written by another. Or more precisely, people will take more effort to figure out a paper from some authors and less effort to figure out a paper from some other authors.

And there is lots of persistence. Once you are known as a ‘good person’ people will take your new output seriously. It only takes a few good papers to be known as a good person and a few bad papers to be known as a joker. Once you are known as a joker, then good luck. Because then no matter how good the work is, you are screwed. No one will take it seriously.

Finishing matters a lot. Once you submit your paper, it will come back. Joural rejection rates are high, so you will need to keep submitting to many journals. Taking advantage of the feedback you receive. But keep going—-don’t let the paper sit on your hard drive. Ideas depreciate. If the idea is good, other people will write the same paper and scoop you. If the idea isn’t good, its probably at least moving the frontier somehow. But the frontier may move away from your paper. Then you are fucked.

Once you get a revise and resubmit, do it. Do it quickly. Do what the referee says-why fight? You can always write another paper later once the current one is in print.

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How to discuss a paper at a conference

  1. You are trying to help the authors-not to show how smart you are. Be constructive. The more constructive you are, the more the author will get from the discussion, and the more likely it is that he/she will help you in the future. It’s a small world. The more helpful you are, the more likely that people will figure out that you are smart, anyway.
  2. Do not say ‘This is a great paper,’ or ‘I really like this paper’ and so on. Everyone says it, and therefore it means nothing. Don’t be phony. Be helpful.
  3. If you find a problem in the paper, or you think the paper is really stupid (it can and will happen), clearly and calmly explain the issues. Do not ignore them. But whatever you do, try not to make the author look stupid; see point 1. Telling the audience calmly but confidently the problems in the paper shows that you are a serious and thoughtful person. That’s what you want.
  4. Be prepared with professional looking slides.
  5. Don’t go over your time. Be short.
  6. If you can add some intuition to the paper, do it. The author always runs out of time.
  7. If you can bring additional information, data, or examples to the paper, do so. I have seem some great discussions in which the discussant redid some of the analysis with new data, or used a slightly simper analytical model to expland and explain the paper’s results. Those discussions surely saved the author a round or two at a journal.
  8. Be creative in expanding the scope of the work.
  9. Don’t be an asshole, only the big shots can do that successfully. And you never know which person in the room will be reviewing you for something in the future.


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