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Present each others’ posters

I am at a conference which had an excellent poster session yesterday. I realized the session would have been even better if the students with posters had been randomly assigned to stand next to and explain other students’ posters. Some of the benefits:

1. The process of reading a poster and learning about its material would be more fun if it was a collaborative effort with the presenter.

2. If you know that someone else will be presenting your poster, you’ll be motivated to make the poster more clear.

3. When presenting somebody else’s poster, you’ll learn the material. As the saying goes, the best way to learn a subject is to teach it.

4. The random assignment will lead to more inderdisciplinary understanding and, ultimately, collaboration.

I think just about all poster sessions should be done this way.

P.S. In reply to comments:

– David writes that my idea “misses the potential benefit to the owner of the poster of geting critical responses to their work.” The solution: instead of complete randoimization, randoimize the poster presenteres into pairs, then put pairs next to each other. Student A can explain poster B, student B can explain poster A, and spectators can give their suggestions to the poster preparers.

– Mike writes that “one strong motivation for presenters is the opportunity to stand in front of you (and other members of the evaluation committee) and explain *their* work to you. Personally.” Sure, but I don’t think it’s bad if instead they’re explaining somebody else’s work. If I were a student, I think I’d enjoy explaining my tellow-students’ work to an outsider. The ensuing conversation might even result in some useful new ideas.

– Lawrence suggests that “the logic of your post apply to conference papers, too.” Maybe so.

10 Comments

  1. David says:

    That's a nice idea though misses the potential benefit to the owner of the poster of geting critical responses to their work.

  2. Mike says:

    Andrew, one strong motivation for presenters is the opportunity to stand in front of you (and other members of the evaluation committee) and explain *their* work to you. Personally. They explain their work to each other a lot in students only sessions during the year.

  3. Keith O'Rourke says:

    Random assignment is almost always a good idea – but it sort of presumes the topics are excgangeable in that a randomly picked student will have the background to grasp the topic on thier feet in 30 miutes or so

    Keith

  4. Kerim Can says:

    If I had a poster I would be concerned if my paper's presenter has the technical capability to fully understand my contribution and explain it to others.

    Perhaps I would doubt even more his motivation. Especially in large conferences all sorts of people apply, sometimes just to take a trip to Chicago on department money. They present their own work very poorly, god knows what they would do if it was somebody else's work.

  5. Lawrence says:

    Andrew: Wouldn't the logic of your post apply to conference papers, too?

  6. Andrew Gelman says:

    Thanks for the comments. I have some replies at the end of my entry above.

  7. Keith O'Rourke says:

    Pairing sounds much better – actually something similar is done for the same reason in many Oxford senior common rooms – College faculty get "free" lunch and dinner, but all in the same room and they are not permitted to choose their seat (i.e. who they sit next to).

    A justification for this was that it "lead to more inderdisciplinary understanding and, ultimately, collaboration."

    Hopefully someone will try this out

    Keith

  8. C. Zorn says:

    When he would chair panels at MPSA and other locales, Harold Spaeth had a habit of making the discussant(s) present the authors' papers, then allowing the authors to comment ("discuss").

    (I'm sure others have done this too).

    Whatever you think of the academic merits of such a practice, it certainly made things more entertaining to panel attendees.

  9. junfeng says:

    i was one of the student who presented the poster there, i agree of i knew i would be randomly assigned to explain others' poster i will make even mine more readable, but the problem is even after couple times explanation by the original authors i still don't understand what is going in his/her research. I guess that require a little bit more common knowledge about each others works.

  10. DaveG says:

    Hmm.

    let's extend this to publishing papers.
    I baggsie Andrew's papers :-)