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Seminars / Conferences

Seminar Guideline

We want to provide a constructive culture in our seminars. We strive for fair and constructive seminars, such that all participants feel comfortable. Following modern standards in our field (e.g., AEA, MIT), we consider common seminar guidelines a valuable tool for attaining this. Seminar organizers are thus encouraged to implement and enforce the below rules in their research seminars. Organizers may want to point them out at the beginning of the seminar to make sure they are common knowledge. In addition, we advise all faculty to adapt their behavior according to the following principles5:

     1. Allow presenters to frame their talk without interruption
     2. Timing of questions
     3. Be constructive and concise
     4. Avoid sidebar conversations
     5. Strive for fair and equal treatment

Below we provide tipps and suggestions that can help to work towards fostering above principles:

     1. Allow presenters to frame their talk without interruption

  • It is important to give presenters the chance to motivate and frame their talk  at the beginning of their presentation
  • One possibility to achieve this is an embargo for questions and comments in the first 3-/5-/10 minutes of a presentation (depending on the presentation length)
  • Purely clarifying questions may be exempted from this

     2. Timing of questions

  • The responsibility of mediating the discussion should lie with the presenter
  • Raising your hand before interrupting the speaker allows them to take your question / comment at an appropriate moment
  • Always consider the appropriateness of the timing of your intervention and avoid interrupting the speaker or other participants mid-sentence
  • Organizers should be prepared to intervene in real time if necessary to call attention to someone whose raised hand has been overlooked

     3. Be constructive and concise

  • If you have a comment, make sure it can be helpful for the presenter
  • Seminars are about learning and giving valuable feedback to the presenter (not about showing off knowledge)
  • Listen to other people’s questions to avoid asking the same question twice

     4. Avoid sidebar conversations

  • Do not whisper (or talk!) during a presentation
  • If you have urgent clarifying questions to your neighbor: keep them short
  • Also: think about asking your question in public, it may be of more general interest

     5. Strive for fair and equal treatment

  • Treat all speakers in the same and fair way
  • Our behavior is often driven by unconscious biases, for instance based on gender or race - try to actively address those
  • If comments are dismissed by speakers or if other participants get credit for slightly reformulating the same comment, seminar organizers and participants can help by re-emphasizing who made the comment.

The above seminar rules may not always be applicable and in certain settings, there may be sound reasons to deviate from these rules. For example, an embargo for early questions and comments may be less suitable in settings where internal presenters pitch (early stage) research ideas. If seminar organizers want to implement other rules than those stated above, we strongly encourage to discuss the rules within their group. Also for seminar specific rules, organizers may want to point them out at the beginning of the seminar to make sure they are
common knowledge for all participants.

Some seminar participants, including PhD students, often do not speak up during seminars. One reason is that many do not feel comfortable speaking up. Thus, seminar organizers may want to actively encourage everybody in the seminar to participate and ask questions, especially PhD students. To further increase the interaction between seminar participants, we encourage seminar organizers to combine seminars with social events, such as joint lunch
or coffee break afterwards. For virtual seminars, this could be a virtual coffee breaks or similar activities.

5 This is closely following the “Guidance for a Constructive Culture of Exchange in MIT Economics Seminars” that
can be found here.


Choice of Speakers

Organizers of seminars or conferences are expected to actively pursue diverse lists of seminar speakers. Setting up a diverse speaker list may sometimes be demanding given that networks in Economics often lack diversity. In that case, seminar organizers are encouraged to make use of below resources:

Resources on Diversity and Discrimination in Economics Seminars:

Callahan, M. (2020, January 14). Do Women in Economics Face Extra Scrutiny?  

Doleac, J., & Pancotti, E. (2020). Econ Seminar Diversity.

Dupas, P., Sasser Modestino, A., Niederle, M., & Wolfers, J. (2019, October 21). Gender and the Dynamics of Economics Seminars.