Generating New Ideas in a Conference Setting

Post provided by David Warton

This guy had his eureka moment in the bath (although I have had more success in the shower). ©Dun.can

This guy had his eureka moment in the bath (although I have had more success in the shower). ©Dun.can

A few leading reasons for going to a conference are: to present your work and get feedback on it, to find out what others are doing, to meet collaborators and to network. But a conference can also be a great setting for generating completely new ideas. I find that conferences are one of my most likely places for a “eureka moment”.

Surrounded by researchers working on a range of different problems in interesting and often original ways, I’m encouraged to think about things from a different angle. Idea generation is perhaps one of the main benefits of going to a conference – but is the typical conference format is the best way to facilitate that? Or does it focus too much on giving researchers a platform to report on previous research ideas? Continue reading

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How Much Methodology Should go into Conference Talks?

The following post was written by Tim Poisot. To see the original version, please visit his blog.

Tim is an Associate Editor who works on Applications submissions for Methods in Ecology and Evolution. His research interests include spatial and temporal dynamics of species interactions at the community level, the relevance of variability in community structure on emerging ecosystem properties, and the evolutionary dynamics of multi-species assemblages.

I am back from the centennial meeting of the Ecological Society of America. I met a lot of great people, saw a lot of great talks, and had lovely discussions. One thing that has been in the back of my mind for a while though, is the question of how much methodology should go into an oral presentation?

How much methodology should be in your presentation? © Phil Whitehouse

How much methodology should be in your presentation? © Phil Whitehouse

Methods are important  —  over the last two years I have found that this has been the part of papers I criticize the most during peer review. Any result is only as robust as its least robust element and there are, in ecology, enough sources of variability that we do not want methods to add any more. As a consequence, appreciating a result and its robustness require that we be able to understand and evaluate the methods by which this result has been obtained.

There are a few elements to evaluating a method. Does it rely on a sound and tested theory? Is it properly applied? Is the method correctly implemented? All of these questions (and some more) should be asked —  and answered in the affirmative  —  before we decide to accept a result. If not, we are putting ourselves in the position to blindly accept what we are being told. Continue reading