The PhD Workshop run by Inger Stensaker and the ‘Nasty Friends Session’ contained in it where truly useful. What I’d like to highlight here is the process and the rules of the game rather than the content. In the weeks prior to the workshop we were asked to read papers by Quy Huy, Gavin Schwarz and a number of PhD proposals from our group. All papers were then to be criticized in the workshop.
3 min intro by the author of the paper
10 min critique by a senior academic
10 min critique by the audience
3 min feedback by the author as to which criticisms will likely be taken on board and which ones dismissed
No positive feedback is allowed. This is a great thing and saves a ton of time, particularly in an Anglo-Saxon environment 😉
The author of the paper is not allowed to reply to any of the criticisms until they get their last three minutes.
It turned out that the academic papers we scrutinized had both been nominated for best paper awards. At first this made us think that there would be little to criticize and we were somewhat reluctant to start. However, as things got rolling, more and more comments were made by the PhD students. In total, there were more than 20 suggestions for improvement for each of the two papers and although the quantity is no guarantee for quality, Quy and Gavin acknowledged and welcomed a number of recommendations. We proceeded in much the same way with our own PhD proposals.