Inviting Seminar Speakers

Juniorprof got his first opportunity to officially invite seminar speakers this week. I got two dates for the dept seminar series in the winter/spring. After some consideration I decided to invite two relatively junior scientists in my area, one who I know fairly well, the other who I don’t know at all. Both are experts in an area of research within my field that I am trying to develop as one of my areas of research. We’ll see if they are available but while I’m waiting to here back let’s go over the decision process a bit.

1) Location matters. Seminar talks are generally short trips and while there is plenty of money available, the pockets are not infinitely deep. For this reason people in Europe, Japan or other countries off the continent are more or less excluded. The exception to this rule is if the seminar can be planned around another big meeting (like SFN) when the invitee will likely be on the continent anyways. My dates don’t correspond to any big meeting so I immediately ruled out people that would have to spend a day traveling just to get here.

2) Try to accomplish a goal with each invitation. As I mentioned, I got two invites and I tried to use them to invite people that have the potential to help me push my research plan forward. One invite was used to attempt to develop a collaboration. This person works on a brain area that I am quite interested in and the person uses a technique that can be viewed as complementary to a technique that I want to use in that region. I’m hopeful that we can at least learn a bit from one another and maybe develop a working relationship looking at a question from complementary angles. The other invite was used to bring in a person who I think can give us some useful advice on our research program from a fresh perspective (perhaps the only person who can give us the perspective that I hope to get). I don’t envision this person as a potential collaborator but you never know.

3) Get a good speaker. Department seminars are important things. They are crucial for the development of trainees and bringing in good speakers elevates the reputation of your dept within the school. I am well aware that both potential speakers give great talks and I am hopeful that the Dept will appreciate both of them. Moreover, they both do truly cutting edge work within my field and it will be a great opportunity for trainees to meet potential postdoc mentors. Part of the goal of any training program should be to provide ample opportunity for trainees to advance their careers. Bringing in well-funded, top quality mentors to meet your trainees is an important aspect of this goal. Finally, I want to have the opportunity to invite more speakers in the future. A good speaker now is a step in the right direction for the future.

4) Future speaking opportunities. Both of the people I invited are located in a broadly similar region of the US, hence, it is an easy (and inexpensive) trip for me to go off to their universities to give a talk. Obviously I’m not going to ask for an invite in return but I’m sure the idea will pop into their heads, especially if I can get them excited about what we are doing here. Invited talks are an important aspect of tenure review and they are of general importance for your CV. I view this as a small step in the right direction.

So, we’ll see if they accept. Luckily people enjoy visiting this here desert city (especially in winter) and we have a big group of scientists with similar interests for them to interact with so i think it will work out just fine.


2 responses to “Inviting Seminar Speakers

  1. You should invite huge-ass figures in your field so they can get to know you personally. This is invaluable. Frankly, it is more valuable than making connections with other scientists at your own level.

  2. Dude, this may sound ridiculous but I already know the huge-ass figures in the field quite well. Combination of former mentors and being at the largest research center for my field in the world were invaluable in getting me to this point. If I did not already know these people very well you would be correct. I’m quite lucky in this regard and thought it would be better to bring in the people who will be the next huge-ass people in the field (although one of them would have to be considered semi-huge-ass already).

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