Comment from Morgan Price:
Why doesn’t reading broadly give the same boost to creativity as going to meetings? I don’t get it. (Do I not get it because I don’t like going to meetings?)
Two different things here: what and why and when you don't like going to meetings, and why meetings are different from reading broadly.
Firstly, why they're different? Because talking to people face to face is a way of getting messages tailored to you in particular. For example, Potnia going up to latest bunny hopping poster by young postdoc at Large National Meeting of Good Science
PT: Hi can you tell me about your poster?
YPD: Yes, the title of my poster is "the amygdala and bunny hopping" and I did all these things that no one has ever done before. I found that bunnies can't hop without their amygdala.
PT: That's interesting. I don't work on bunny hopping, but I do work on the amygdala and hissing and spitting in wombats. I think the amygdala is vastly under appreciated.
YPD: <getting visibly excited> Wow, you know, sometimes the bunnies would hiss and spit. I have some recordings of the amygdala when they did that. What did you find?
PT: Wombats can't hiss and spit without activating the amygdala. Its most active when they're upset, but also when they are shown a picture of a huge kangaroo about to kick their brains in. There's clearly a wombat memory issue here. I'm trying to figure out how to separate a memory from an event.
YPD: I actually had to do it too, and invented this new thingimibobbi that you just put on the brainstem and it sends memory and emotion separating signals to the amygdala.
PT: You did? That's in-fucking-credible... how do you feel about collaboration? You can have full credit and first authorship and an R01(except I don't give those out).
A tad hypothetical, but you get the idea. It can be a lot more specific about the things in which you are interested.
It's also a lot more wide reaching. A lot more opportunity for the serendipitous. When you read, you are often making decisions about what to read before you know a lot about the science or even read the abstract. How do you find the abstracts that you do read? At a meeting a lot more science stares you in the face. You are more likely to see something new and make a weird but wonderful connection. Its Chun the Unavoidable.
There is also the socialization aspect. I found this painful and horrible and awkward and painful in sixteen new ways each meeting. I'm finally old enough that there are no more shits to give about this. But you will find new ideas and new friends and new input by actually having a beer with people you don't know well. If you are worried about staying fresh, as opposed to being young and having so many ideas that they are dripping off the ends of your beard, these beers are times to Make You Think.
Finally, by talking with others you realize that your home institution is both unique and horribly the same as everywhere else. That idiot greybeard down the hall? He's just like the idiot greybeard down the hall at TheOtherMajor Uni. But, you also can see that you've got some neat and interesting people who are doing things that you didn't realize until you bumped into the Young and Bright-eyed Post Doc.
Tomorrow... I'll tackle why you don't like going to meetings and whether that doesn't help creativity.