Given that the Christmas period is upon us, but the rate of things to do has not declined, and people keep asking me if I have completed my Christmas shopping (no! and in truth, I haven't even started) time for a Scrooge-like post.
The following may upset my colleagues, so I will lay my card on the table. I am as guilty as the next person, but I am trying very hard not to be. I no longer want to be a Paratrooper Speaker. And I think my colleague should do the same.
I am going to reminisce about the good old days, about conferences I went to when I was a student. Once, I got invited, after the conference dinner, to sit at the table with Geoffrey Burbidge, Martin Rees, and (I think - although this was a long time ago) Jerry Ostriker. The names do not matter, but I was sitting at a table with the greats in the field, who were having a roving, robust discussion. It was terrifying (for me as a student), but great.
But I've noticed something happening over the years, something that has been bothering me more and more. I know we are all getting busier and busier, and our time conferences are squeezed by committees, administration and just other things.
So, some (but not all!!) senior researchers have been spending less and less time at meetings. Don't get me wrong, they go to more and more actual meetings, and spend less and less time at each meeting.
Some might be too busy to spend an entire week at a meeting, and so they come in for a couple of days (ensuring they get their talk in), and then they are off again.
But now, what I see more and more, is people arriving in town only for their session, a few hours, and then they are gone.
Well, to be blunt, "Don't be so bloody rude!"
While you may think that the message you are putting out is "I'm a busy person, so be pleased that I can spend some time with you to share my brilliance", what you are really saying is "What I talk about is important and I don't really need to listen to what you have to say - information flows one way, from me to you, now I am out of here - Bazzinga".
I pointed out at the start that I have gotten into this mode, and am trying hard to change it, and properly take part in meetings. When I sign-up for a conference or meeting, I try to spend the entire time at the meeting, network, whinge at colleagues, chat with Early Career Researchers, and hopefully become one of the terrifying old guard that I sat with when I was a student.
I know those experiences had a profound impact on me. I hope the best and brightest are not making themselves so aloof and fly-by-night that the younger generation do not really get a chance to interact with them.
I hope some of my fellow senior researchers will think about their approach to attending meetings, and stop being paratrooper speakers.
Gump over. Have a Merry Christmas!