I was talking to a historian colleague yesterday and he introduced me to an interesting idea. In the research centre (about a dozen faculty and postdocs) he directs they have a fortnightly (I think) "work in progress" seminar. The format is (something like) as follows.
One individual presents a 10 minute paper (circulated beforehand) describing a project they are currently working on. Everyone present (faculty, postdocs, students, visitors) then discusses the project for more than an hour!
They discuss strengths, weaknesses, and possible directions for the project.
Afterwards everyone goes out for a meal.
The fact that the feedback is appreciated is testified by the fact that there is a backlog of people (including from outside the centre) who are waiting to give presentations.
They also do this with all their grant applications.
Would this work for science?
I think we need to do something more like this.
Generally, the only time I see people discuss work in progress is within research groups. Then everyone present is more or less "committed" to the topic and to the approach.
At larger formal seminars people tend to only present "completed" research and there is virtually no time for real discussion or feedback.
Why don't we do this?
I fear some of the reasons might be:
-senior people don't want to see their pet projects cut down even before they begin
-people are scared of getting "scooped" [Aside: I think this is sometimes an egotistical delusion].
-people don't want others suggesting ideas and collaborations and expecting to be co-authors.
What do you think?