Recently I read a nice blog post over on Dynamic Ecology discussing what different research groups choose to do with their weekly group meetings. Reassuringly (or is it worryingly?) most groups end up doing much the same thing, with the majority of time being spent either presenting new work or discussing papers. During our meeting, we tend to have a guest speaker that presents an overview of their research, somewhat like an informal seminar.
This week, however, we followed Ed ’s suggestion and tried something a bit different: we called it “slide of the week”. The idea is simple: each person attending the meeting provides a single powerpoint slide and then spends no more than 5 minutes discussing it with the rest of the group. The aim is to bring together the positive features of the tried and tested groups meeting formats (e.g., presenting new work, new papers, discussing methods etc.) into a single session.
Overall, I would say it was a success. People talked about a wide range of topics: we discussed the pitfalls of null model selection when inferring processes shaping community assembly in plants; we learned about the role of nutrient cycling in the litter as a mechanisms shaping coexistence between two dominant Iberian oak species; we talked about the role of sea grasses as a source of nutrients for coastal dune plant communities; and we explored the use of Thiessen polygons as a way of mapping land use and land ownership. Quite a lot for an hours work, in my opinion! What I especially liked was the fact that people brought different things to the table, ranging from problems they were having with their work, to preliminary results, statistical advice and recently published research. It also served as a good approach to get the discussion going, because everyone presented something and because we covered a wide range of topics which meant everyone had something to contribute.
I say everyone presented, but actually this isn’t true and this leads me to my one concern about the “slide of the week” format: it’s hard to stick to the allotted 5 minutes. We inevitably ended up spending more than 5 minutes on each slide (especially at the beginning, when everyone was getting into the discussion). As a result, not everyone got to present, which isn’t ideal. In the future we might need to be stricter about the time limit. I guess the only consolation is that at least we already have plenty more slides for future meetings!