I first published this piece in an Editorial for the benefit of I.CON readers, but in the light of my recent experience at the ASIL Annual Meeting and in view of the forthcoming ESIL Annual Conference, EJIL readers might also find it of interest.
I have most certainly reached the final phase of my academic and professional career and as I look back I want to offer, for what it is worth, some do’s and don’ts on different topics to younger scholars in the early phases of theirs. A lot of what I may say will appear to many as a statement of the obvious – but if it so appears, ask yourself why so many experienced and seasoned academics still fall into the trap.
So you have all been there – I must have ‘been there’ literally hundreds of times in the last 40 years. You are at some international conference. The most common format for presenting a paper is in a ‘panel’. Most typically there will be four panelists. Imagine you are one of them, maybe number four. There might be two ‘discussants’ or ‘commentators’. Again, most typically, each panelist will be allocated 15 to 20 minutes. The commentators are allocated 10 minutes each. If all goes according to plan, one hour and 20 minutes are allocated to the speakers. There is then a planned discussion; on a good day 25 minutes are allocated. In this, the most common of plans, a session beginning at, say, 9.00 is meant to last until 10.45, after which there is a coffee break of 15 minutes and then the next session is meant to begin. There is usually a ‘moderator’ or ‘chairperson’, or, if you are in Europe, a ‘president’ of the session.
Except that it never (ever) goes according to plan; here is what most commonly happens. The session often does not start on time. People are still shuffling in; the previous session finished late; the moderator’s introduction (which often consists of reading a Wikipedia-based bio of each of the ‘distinguished panelists’) goes on a little bit longer than planned. Now finally the first speaker gets the floor. You glance sideways across the table, your heart sinks. He or she has a sheaf that seems to be at least 20 pages long. In fact, she has the precious, original, paradigm-shifting paper she has written for the conference. How, you think to yourself, will the speaker get through all of that in her 15 minutes. (You are right; she will not). Your heart sinks even further. The speaker just said that he will try to be brief. That ‘try’ is ominous. It sounds great in Italian: ‘Cercherò di essere telegrafico’. More like stagecoach than telegraph you are thinking to yourself. She introduces the paper, she gets going. You note, again glancing sideways, that on each page some paragraphs are highlighted in yellow. Hope Read the rest of this entry…