Don’t belittle junior researchers in meetings

CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, India.

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The most interesting part of a scientific seminar, colloquium or conference for me is the question and answer session. However, I find it upsetting to witness the unnecessarily hard time that is increasingly given to junior presenters at such meetings. As inquisitive scientists, we do not have the right to undermine or denigrate the efforts of fellow researchers — even when their reply is unconvincing.

It is our responsibility to nurture upcoming researchers. Firing at a speaker from the front row is unlikely to enhance discussions. In my experience, it is more productive to offer positive queries and suggestions, and save negative feedback for more-private settings.

With belligerence supplanting courtesy inside and outside the conference room, it might be helpful for young researchers to be taught how to frame a question in a purely scientific way. Let us create a system in which junior scientists feel excited to share their data.

Nature 554, 169 (2018)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-01676-0

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