The Node: an interesting virtual coffee break

I have been far from the blog and all the stuff unrelated with Pubmed and journals. But a few days ago I found a new feature in the Development’s journal homepage. It is called “The Node“, and its description is as follows: “We’d like you to think of the Node as a way to spend your coffee breaks“. According to The Node, more exactly, according to Earl Wilson, who (and I’m not sure because there are so many ‘Earl Wilson’s) was a famous columnist, the best place to share information and ideas is, actually, the coffee break.

The concept itself is very precise and interesting. I found myself many times, in meetings, talking with colleagues about data, experiments, ideas. Personally, I love the poster sessions, because of that sense of lack of formality, sometimes drinking beer and talking for hours about science. In an oral presentation, it’s just too short. You show up in front of the scientist, you try to explain in only 10 minutes the data gathered in months, often years of research. And, most of the time, the people in front of you are desperate to make a “smart” question (which means, 99% of the time, to try to ask something impossible to answer so they seem smart, kind of “Oh my, he must publish in Cell”). Oral presentations, specially in 10 minutes, are against the whole idea of meeting someone: to talk, to discuss, to share.

Returning to the original idea… usually, in meetings, the coffee breaks are the ideal place to share and connect. Often, coffee breaks are conducted in open spaces, but the coffee and cookies are placed in just two or three tables, and you have a little chance to came across with the keynote speaker of the day, or with that guy that you saw in the last session talking about that topic very related with your PhD research thesis. You say “Hi!” to that guy, and well, you have to leave the table because fifty other people are trying to get cookies. And then, voilá! you are talking with people about science. “How did you make the experiment with the zebrafish embryos?” “Oh, well, we discovered that adding 0.2M of ….“. I found that in these situations, colleagues are more open to share technical tips and advice. I have very good experiences in coffee breaks and poster sessions, at least here in Chile. That’s the spirit of The Node, according to the creators: to rescue that sense of sharing and talking.

Ideas like The Node and some others around the internet (like Benchfly) are very valuable. Most of the time, you can assist to one or two meetings per year, and sometimes you just can’t go, either because of funding, or time, or because you are trying to get that paper published once and for all. But virtual coffee breaks allow us to connect with people working in similar fields, and to share experiences about science and scientist’s life.

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3 Responses to “The Node: an interesting virtual coffee break”


  1. 1 Eva amsen June 29, 2010 at 9:00 am

    Thanks for the kind words about the Node! I’m glad the “coffee break” concept came across.

    I see you’re in Chile. have you seen the Node post about the differences between research in Chile and Germany? http://thenode.biologists.com/developing-science-in-a-far-country-the-paradoxes-of-life/ There is some discussion in the comments there as well.

  2. 2 pabloastudillo June 29, 2010 at 10:31 am

    Thank you for your comment.

    Yes, indeed, I read the post that you mention. I am friendo of Crtistian, who wrote it. And also I wrote a similar post some time ago, here in my blog. I want to add to the discussion in the post in The Node, but I had little time until yesterday, so I expect to do it soon.

    I think that the concept of the “coffee break” is very powerful.

    • 3 Eva Amsen July 6, 2010 at 7:41 am

      Great! I wondered if you knew each other. Yes, do leave a comment on Cristian’s post if you have a moment, and feel free to leave the link to your post. It will be interesting to see your perspective as well!


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