FAQ's for Speakers (and others)

If you still have questions after reading the following, please don't hesitate to contact us.

Q.  How much time do I have?  

A.  Exactly twenty (20) minutes.


Q.  Can it be a few minutes less?

A.  Sure.


Q.  What if I go over?

A.  You can't.  We'll make noise and rudely interrupt you.  We are serious about leaving time for questions and discussion.


Q.  Can I show my slides?

A.  If you bring a laptop and a VGA dongle to connect to the projector.


Q.  Do I have to bring slides?

A.  No.


Q.  Should I read my talk?

A.  Please don't.


Q.  Should I bring slides with an outline of my talk and bulleted points to sort of follow?

A.  Bad idea.


Q.  What if my bulleted points fly magically across the screen animated with Prezi or something like it?

A.  Worse yet.


Q.  Can I bring great images to show?

A.  Yes, please.


Q.  Should I save space and electrons by cramming four or eight images to each slide?

A.  No, the screen is not that big, considering the size of the room.  If you put more than one image per slide, people might have trouble seeing them.


Q.  How big should labels on charts or graphs be?

A.  23 point type should be legible from the back row.


Q.  How much text can I put on a slide?

A.  As little as possible.

Q.  If I feel it would be useful to bring a handout anyway, how many copies should I bring?

A.  Enough for sixty people to share, so twenty or thirty should be enough.  But print them before you board the ferry.


Q.  Can I illustrate my talk with an interpretive dance?

A.  Can you?  Why not?


Q.  What should I wear?

A.  Clothes.  And something comfortable.  Sartorial standards are pretty flexible at CHSG.


Beyond the talks themselves:


Q.  Can I bring my kids?

A.  This is a great place for kids and they are very welcome.


Q.  Can I bring my spouse, partner, mom?

A.  Please do.  Just sign them up for meals and housing.


Q. Can I bring my pet pig?

A. No, unless it is to be added to the banquet menu.

Q.  This sounds like more fun than other conferences.

A.  That is our hope.

Tradition and Customs

The Columbia History of Science Group [CHSG] first met in 1983, developing out of a weekly reading group at the University of Washington and efforts by historians of science at Oregon State University to bring together their colleagues in California and the Pacific Northwest. When Keith Benson joined the faculty at UW in 1981 he merged these two initiatives, forming the “Northwest Group.” Its first meeting was held at Fort Worden on the northeast corner of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. The first meeting was an unqualified success. The intellectual merits of the gathering were undisputed, but an immediate change of name, venue, and catering service became high priorities. The twenty-three people who attended the first meeting agreed to orient their group’s name around the Columbia River, which allowed the inclusion of western and northwestern Americans as well as western Canadians. Recent scientific discoveries have demonstrated that the true source of the Columbia River is actually the Great Lakes, which allows the organization to include scholars from the Northwest, Midwest, and Great Lakes Region. A number of traditions were established at the first meeting, including the annual scheduling of prominent speakers who could not attend and the inclusion of members’ families, which was originally necessary so that the organization was large enough to be financially solvent.

Perhaps the most notable tradition and by far the most highly anticipated part of each year's meeting is the closing event, the Milosian Banquet, so named in honor of Milo, the caterer at the first meeting. Over the last three decades, the Milosian Banquet has evolved into an annual, black tie-optional dinner that includes a grilled salmon feast, impromptu entertainment, and the presentation of a number of awards, including the Golden Weenie, the Aztec Potato, the incendiary bat, the Yoni, and the Fickle Finger of Fate. Specifics regarding the general plan for the Milosian Banquet as well as details of any year's actual events are closely guarded secrets, known only to those who have participated in the banquet. Occasional information leaks have led to formal punishments, including election to governance positions in the organization.

After the first CHSG meeting at Fort Worden, the group has meet annually at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Labs. The setting encourages an air of informality and has provided a unique venue for the presentation of preliminary ideas on new projects. Speakers give tightly constructed, 15-20 (MAX) minute talks with 10-15 min Q&A and then are allowed ample time to discuss their work informally with their colleagues at receptions, meals, and recreation times. The combination of formal presentation and informal discussion has offered a warm and welcoming environment for junior scholars and introduced new scholarship, including for example Frank Sulloway’s work on birth order, Paul Farber’s analysis of evolutionary ethics, and Jane Maienschein’s study of “good science.”

For a detailed history of the meeting, see Keith Benson, “Flail on, Columbia: An Irreverent Look at HSS’s Soggiest Subsection, the Columbia History of Science Group,” in Catching Up with the Vision, Isis Supplement, 90 (1999): pp. 240-245.