Things that Frost My Shorts – BSD at Scientific Meetings Edition

I am thinking about going to a specialty meeting this summer (registration is now). One of the things about being an olde farte, is I have some fiscal leeway to pay to go to meetings in Europe that I didn’t when I was younger. I have friends in various European cities, and they are not getting younger (80’s). Summer in Europe is always nice.

The other aspect about which I have become more adult (although truly, never completely, sigh), is that I don’t mind if I’m not invited to the meeting as one of The Invited Big Dogs. I do good work, and either I will meet potential collaborators and get stimulated or I won’t. That’s up to me.

So I was talking to my colleague, Mark, who is organizing the meeting, and he started talking about past ones (this is  third iteration). He mentioned that Jane, a wannabe BSD in my subdiscipline (I hesitate to call her a colleague) attends this meeting. He then recounted the story of Jane at the last two meetings. At the first she talked for 30 min in a 20 min slot, and in the second, when my friend was the session chair, she got to 25min. Before anyone gets all medieval on my ass about it’s the session chair’s responsibility to cut off speakers, its kinda hard for a junior person to cut off a BSD in full flower. Mark went on to add that the organizer/chair/Pooh-Bah of the meeting had just gone over by 5 minutes right before. He felt he was in a very uncomfortable position.

People who take extra time for their talk are possibly some of the most arrogant goats in science. They count on junior people not cutting them off. Time at a meeting session is a zero-sum game. If you take more time, it comes out of someone else’s question time, it comes out of the break (a critical time for youngers to go and talk to everyone and anyone about their stuff), or it comes out of drinks at the end of the day. Your work, no your talking about your work, is more important than my scotch? I don’t think so.


4 thoughts on “Things that Frost My Shorts – BSD at Scientific Meetings Edition

  1. Agree its annoying, but I haven’t seen the practice (over-talking) performed any more or less by BSDs than by other level speakers. In one case a few years ago, a junior person (admittedly from a BSD’s lab, so maybe he felt entitled due to mentoring) was audibly heard to say “oh shit” when the timer went off, but then just carried on talking for another 10 minutes anyway, repeating “oh shit” after every slide and even skipping past a few (he had 35 slides for a 15 minute talk. Another example would be the non-English as a primary language grad’ student selected for a talk, who spent a huge chunk of her allotted 15 minutes saying “er… er… er… err…” before every statement, followed by an apology for her language skills after every slide, and lots of expectorating with the microphone still attached. Arrchhhch… aarrrgghhcch. chthccharracghthghhack…err… err… sorry.

    It’s not just the old folks who mess it up, but they should know better. At least the young-uns can claim ignorance/naivete.

  2. Yup, anyone can be a jerk at meetings. I tend to be more forgiving of the young (who also btw, do more damage to themselves by this behavior). One of the most important things a mentor can do for a trainee (or other jr faculty) is make them practice their talk before giving it. Over and over. It ensures you are within time, and it reduces the ums and ahs and likes and ya’ knows and making ever sentence go up in pitch at the end.

  3. Totally agree. I look at it as one of the primary jobs of a scientist to give presentations about their stuff. It’s arguably the primary job of a BSD. Be professional and use the time you have! Whats extra annoying is that, as a pro/BSD, they’ve undoubtedly given the same talk at least a couple times before and they know how long it will be. They know its going to be too long! We’re all smart people and we all know that 35 slides into 15 minutes doesn’t work! But they just don’t give a shit. Uhg.

    • Sometimes its that they think “this time I won’t go over” but don’t bother to practice. I can rant and rave about this for hours (instead of working on my grant).

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