Chairing a session and Being a Discussant Science Communication LOLO.00.037 www.ut.ee/BG/scom Tips for presenting, chairing, and discussing at conferences The major pointers (the three P's): • Be prepared - regardless of the role you have, make sure to prepare fully beforehand. • Be professional - make sure you act professionally throughout the process. • Be prompt - Make sure to show up early for our panel. You should be at the room at least 10 minutes before "show time" so that you can prepare yourself, and interact with presenters. Chairing the session • Speak confidently -- good voice projection and eye contact is important. So look at the audience !! • Speak sufficiently slowly that each word is clear. Do not ‘swallow’ words. • Introduce the speaker/presenter by covering, at the very least, their name and the title of what they will present. You may also include a little of their background. • Also introduce the discussant and explain any aspects of their role you would like to being to the attention of the audience. Being a Chair (chairman/chairperson) Your main job is to facilitate the presentations. • Keep time. Be prepared to hand the speaker a slip of paper with time remaining at 3 minutes before the end and 1 minutes before the end. • You can allow each person a minute or so beyond their allotted time, but then wait for them to take a breath and simply interject something like "Time is up. Could you please wrap up now?" Managing Questions • Chairs usually manage the questions coming from the audience. Begin by saying ‘Now, I would like to open the session up for questions. If it's a small group, you can ask people to identify themselves. • If people go on too long with their questions/comments, you can ask them to get to the point in a polite way, but don't sweat on it. Try to manage things well, but don't worry if you don't. • Ending the session. Say something like, ‘Well, if there are no more questions, I would like to conclude by thanking our presenter for providing us with their presentation and I would now like to call on the discussant to provide a critique of the presentation and the manner in which it was delivered.’ Being a Discussant The major task of a discussant is to provide focused and useful constructive criticism and suggestions for their papers. Make specific constructive criticisms and suggestions – include at least the following 4 aspects. 1. 2 3 4 Begin with one positive element of the paper. Goal of paper or presentation. Point out something that they could do which would strengthen the paper. Comment on the goal aspects of their presentation ability, but also draw attention to anything that you feel should be improved The Target Groups The discussant has to satisfy two key groups • First, the discussant is responsible to the audience at the session. The audience normally see the discussant as the person who can best provide a ‘road map’ for research in this area and interpret the poster/paper in the context of that road map (this applies to your NOS presentations). • Second, the discussant is responsible to the author of the poster/paper. The author are looking for meaningful and constructive feedback on the paper. The discussant has to do all of this in a very short period of time! What NEITHER group is looking for is for the discussant to talk about THEIR OWN research. That is not the purpose of a discussant! Please refrain from treading down that path. Think positive Always start your intervention as a discussant by pointing out what the poster/NOS presentation has tried to do (what do you see as its main message) and how it helped to provide a new and interesting empirical material, came to a surprising insight, or whatever (what do you like about it). Almost all presentations are potentially good, and it is your duty to make sure that comes out. A critique of the position developed in the paper can wait until after you've done that. • Remember, that most criticism can be made constructive simply by phrasing it as "One thing that you might do to strengthen your argument/presentation is to [bring more of the recent literature on X to bear on the topic] [speak more loudly/slower]" • or "The excellent theoretical material that you have brought together in the poster/paper could be presented even more compellingly by [making use of some of the empirical material as anecdotal illustrations of the key theoretical points] [being more emphatic in you use of expressions]." Other factors when being a poster or a paper discussant • Your comments are meant to be the most thought-through reactions that the author receives on that presentation. • Your comments should concentrate on making a poster/paper better: having a poster/paper discussed at a workshop is an important formal moment in the process of writing a paper, and you are the institutional vehicle for that. Rules for Discussants There are two simple rules to follow: 1. Do not do unto others what you would not want to have done unto you;. That is, give the type of comments that you would like to receive yourself. 2. Divide up your critique By and large, a poster/paper can be evaluated using three criteria: • the central argument – what it is and how it was expressed, • the method, (what this is and how it was made clear) • the organisation/presentation of the poster/paper. Going into more detail about being a discussant for a conference poster/paper or set of papers. These points go beyond our little practice sessions and try to help in the real conference situation Central argument Try to capture the central argument of the poster/paper in a few words. Often the author benefits tremendously simply by having you re-state what he or she was trying to say. This may take the form of: pointing out other positions in the debate that the author did not acknowledge, a head-on critique of the central claim of the poster/paper, with which you disagree, or the presentation of "disturbing" new facts that you have and which fit rather uneasily with the point of the poster/paper. Method • Explicitly address issues of design and method. Again, the first step in this process is to (re)state what the author is trying to do, and assess it on those terms. • Always be helpful, i.e. think through, in a virtual or real discussion with the author, how methodological problems could be resolved. • If you disagree with the method –on principle or for this particular research question—make clear why you disagree. • Method is important, but avoid getting bogged down by it. Organisation of the poster • Often the weakest part of conference poster/is the organisation: posters are written with one particular outline in mind, and as the poster evolves, some of that can get lost. • On organisational issues, you should be very tough: after all, that is the main instrument that the author has for making an impact. • It is usually this dimension of a poster/paper which is most easily revised. • A poorly organised poster/paper is difficult to read, and if the argument is worthwhile, then that is a pity. Building your commentary 1. Act as if the presentation is all you'll know. Given that title, what might (s)he say? 2. If you can read through the material multiple times. Each time you'll see something different, because you will have had different intervening experiences and you are a different reader. 3. Have definitions of key terms or seek clarification on behelf of the audience (as Authors may not do this). You can always say, “these people are not talking about this phenomenon, as it is usually defined. It is usually defined as X. Possible sample leading comments a. “You can do even more with this argument than what we've heard here. For instance,…” b. “The predominant reference in this paper is X. What if it had been Y?” c. “We came to this symposium with assumptions affecting our reactions. There are at least four reactions people can have: (i) that's absurd (deny assumption); (ii) that's interesting (disconfirm weak assumption)’ (iii) that's obvious (affirms assumptions); (iv) that's irrelevant (does not speak to assumptions). What is the pattern of reactions to what we have heard?” d. “Given this topic, I expected the presenter to say X. Much to my surprise he/she said Y. What can we make of that?” A Realistic preview of the discussant’s role 1. You'll get none of the posters/papers in advance. 2. At the session there will be little time left for you to make your comments. 3. In the time left, you'll be introduced as the person who will pull all of this together. (this refers to discussing a set of papers). 4. The audience wants you to sit down so they can ask their questions. 5. Being a discussant is fun to do, because you have a chance to spot connections and you don't have to worry about writing a paper during the holidays so as to get a slot at the meeting (being involved is often important for seeking funding !!). Coping without see posters in advance • Take notes. • To get your bearings. Why that title for the paper ? Is there a better title? Has the presentation a good sequence? • It is OK to draw the audience in: Thus “before we get to your questions, let me ask you in the audience to take on the role of discussant for the moment. What do you think are the big ideas we heard, what surprised you, what's controversial, what will you take away? (Don’t allow the person working in the same research area to sleep !!) • Skim a recent newspaper. Something will have been relevant to the topic. For example “There is a certain timeliness to these presentations, at least judging from this item in today's ‘Postimees”. Possible Questions 1. Isn't being a discussant just the same as being a manuscript reviewer? Ans: Probably, but it shouldn't be. In a symposium, authors have a chance to correct misperceptions of a discussant right away. The thinking of a discussant should not be, ‘show me why this is a major contribution to the literature’. The thinking is something like, ‘you wouldn't have put all this work into this topic unless you thought there was something important to say’. 2. How do you make sessions exciting? Ans: One definition of “exciting” is a session in which motivated people prepare, do their homework, make a coherent argument within their allotted time, and have something interesting to say. And if it is said in an interesting way, perhaps even in a provocative way, then the session might be interesting. And the discussant can ‘liven things up’ by trying to ‘create an atmosphere’ and perhaps playing ‘devil’s advocate’. Don’t dwell on small points Page-by-page comments are good for email communication, but look pedantic in a public discussion. Only if the poster is full of contradictions does it make sense to (carefully) point that out to the author. Discussing small points only makes sense, really, if they are vital for the poster as a whole – but then they can hardly be called "small" points !! And don’t forget, the author is present. If you annoy them, they may make a few choice remarks about you as a discussant !!! Be succinct The discussant is not expected to take more than ten minutes –this implies that you concentrate on major points in the critique (a critique is both +ve and –ve). The discussion afterwards may give you time to develop any other arguments. On the other hand, a discussant is not going to say much if the comments are too short. The discussant is expected to be able to make meaningful points that take at least 5 minutes. Without that the audience can feel ‘cheated’. Write out the comments for the author's purpose Send the author an email with a written version of your comments. You will be more economical when you are forced to write them up, and discover where you were, perhaps, exaggerating your criticisms. Nothing disciplines and organises thinking as much as writing. Giving the author written comments is also a sign that you took the paper seriously and it will therefore always be appreciated. The End For the following sessions, I wish • One person to chair each presentation. • A separate person to be a discussant. The presenters of their posters or their NOS papers are the major persons, but the chair and discussant are also under scutiny. Their efforts will help the session enormously. Using English Science Communication BGMR.09.131 www.ut.ee/BG/scom Use of English Guidelines English has rules, but virtually all are broken in some way. And there is no control over English. It is changing. This means there is no actual ‘correct’ English, except that taken as acceptable by others. The good news: Technically, you can never be wrong in your pronounciation, use, or spelling of English !! So don’t worry ! The bad news: Others need to understand you !! Which English should be used Use ‘English’ English in Europe. (But if you use ‘American’ English, be consistent and don’t switch from ‘American’ English to ‘English’ English. Thus for ‘English’ English, it is programme, not program (exception – when it is a computer program) And colour, labour, harbour, centre, realise, specialise, analyse, metre, And ‘lift’ rather than ‘elevator’ ‘flat’ rather than ‘apartment’ ‘bonnet’ (of a car) rather than ‘hood’ ‘petrol’ rather than ‘gas’ (gasoline) Pronounciation In ‘English’ English, the emphasis is on the 2nd to last syllable in a word) - there will be exceptions. In ‘American’ English, the emphasis is usually on the 3rd from last syllable. Thus Tan- zan – i –a and Tan- zan- ia Con-tro-ver-sy and Con-tro-ver-sy Because English does not define the vowel sound (no ‘ä’, ‘ō’, etc), pronounciation can depend on your origins (change even within a country) Try saying Bus, Now, And what about Garage, Tomato, Margarine And of course don’t forget words which have kept their French pronounciation: Bouquet, Gateaux, Buffet, Coup, Checking English in sentences ‘About 50 years, a lot of recurrent difficulties in science education were encountered in many countries’. For about 50 years, many countries have encountered recurring difficulties in science education. ‘This order of introduction of chemistry issues is reversed to the order given in usual textbooks’. This approach to chemistry issues is the reverse to that usually given in textbooks. Use of ‘a’ and ‘the’ This is difficult and unless you are a native English speaker it is almost impossible to handle. And even then, native speakers will disagree with each other – especially Americans and the English (with Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders and South Africans in between). Generally, include ‘a’ for something- in general in the singular. Generally, include ‘the’ for something ‘specific’ and definitely, if the specificity is to be emphasised. Use of ‘the’ needed • Mathematics is still widely used by the science. • Put to test Use of ‘a’ needed • Biology is science subject • Collect a data • But Chemistry and Biology are science subjects 3. Nouns such as ‘civics, mathematics and ‘news’ require singular verbs. 4. Nouns such as ‘scissors’ , ‘tweezers’ and ‘trousers‘ require plural verbs. (There are two parts) 5. Collective nouns are words that imply more than one person/thing, but that are considered singular and take a singular verb, such as: ‘group, work, class, and family’. 6. What about data? Is it data is, or data are ? Take you pick, but be consistent. Data is actually plural (singular is datum), but datum is virtually never used. Checking the English in sentences ‘Sensors and signal converters are used in laboratory works for making different measurements that offer the possibility to enter information in computer and process it with the help of special software. Points work not works (line 2) into the computer (line 4) data rather than it (line 4) The unnecessary use of plural • So umbrellaology is not a science, but could be one part of the researches of some social science. • Practical works help to provide the better learning results. Incorrect English word • This results in quicker development of areas connected to nature conservation. Choice of words In speech we tend to use simpler words (which are often Germanic in origin) and prefer Germanic clausal verbs – get up, go out, get off (a bus). In writing we make much more frequent use of French origin words – arise, exit, alight. In writing we try to avoid some terms - ‘got’, ‘have to’, or ending a sentence with a preposition (if we can), Examples: Where are you going to? (Where are you going?) Where have you come from ? (From where have you come?) I have to write this essay (I am required to write this essay) Wrong preposition/ conjunctions • For example the theory of the Sun being in the centre of the Solar System. • Also, in science the results of the tests are depending of the person doing these tests • The world is beyond of our ability to sense • In my point of view, these are three main reasons why people are trying to learn more about the nature. • Charles Darwin didn’t investigate all the nature to make his theory of evolution. Active and Passive Voice Choosing Active Voice In most non-scientific writing situations, active voice is preferable Even in scientific writing, overuse of passive voice, or use of passive voice in long and complicated sentences, can cause readers to lose interest, or to become confused. Sentences in active voice are generally--though not always—clearer and more direct than those in passive voice. Passive (more wordy); Active (more concise) Choosing Passive Voice The passive voice makes sense when the agent performing the action is obvious, unimportant, or unknown, or when a writer wishes to postpone mention of the agent until the last part of the sentence, or to avoid mentioning the agent at all. The passive voice is effective in such circumstances because it highlights the action and what is acted upon rather than the agent performing the action. Active/passive examples (omission of agent doing the action) • The warden is notifying police that three prisoners have escaped. • Police are being notified that three prisoners have escaped. • Researchers successfully performed a new experimental technique yesterday. • A new experimental technique was performed successfully yesterday. • "Authorities make rules to be broken," he said defiantly. • "Rules are made to be broken," he said defiantly. Avoid starting a sentence in active voice and then shifting to passive. Many customers found the coffee too bitter to drink, but it was still ordered frequently. Many customers found the coffee too bitter to drink, but they still ordered it frequently. He tried to act cool when he slipped on the ice, but he was still laughed at by the other students. He tried to act cool when he slipped on the ice, but the other students still laughed at him.