Honor or Disrespect

Before presenting, a scientist is introduced to a group of expert scientists with a list of prizes, awards, grants, titles and fellowships but no word of the research that led to these accolades. I have been in the audience many times, and every single time I felt disrespected. I also felt that the presenter’s research was being disrespected.

I previously wrote why I find this type of introduction subversive to our scientific culture. Why is it disrespectful to the presenter and the audience? On the surface, some may see it as honoring the presenter and their research. However, I see it as delegating the critical thinking and the evaluation to external, often anonymous and sometimes highly political, committees. Instead of proving useful background framing the research we are about to hear, it asserts the authority of the presenter based on accolades. Assertion of authority is inimical to critical thinking. If the presenter has done significant research, the audience of scientists — attending the talk because of their interest and expertise in the research area — should be able to understand and appreciate the research. The audience would not appreciate the significance only if they lack expertise or if the research accomplishments of the presenter are not highly significant. These two possibilities are exactly my interpretation of an introduction enumerating a list of accolades. Both possibilities are disrespectful!

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