What scientists say at meetings versus what they actually mean

What they say: I’d like to thank the organizers for inviting me to this session…
What they mean: I’d like to thank the organizers for inviting me to Hawaii in December. In return, I am inviting them to talk in my department’s seminar series.

What they say: The raw data is in the graph next to the results…
What they mean: I hope the graph which has n=9 and error bars convinces you what I’m saying is true even though no one believes me.

What they say: A very interesting talk. In our lab we’ve shown…
What they mean: I don’t believe you.

What they say: On the left is a representative gel showing an experiment we performed…
What they mean: After getting a graduate student to run this experiment a hundred times, this was the only gel that turned out presentable.

What they say: These were very hard experiments to perform…
What they mean: Don’t even think about competing with us, and if you do, these results are not reproducible.

What they say: To the best of our knowledge…
What they mean: We were too lazy to do a proper literature review.

What they say: This is my last data slide.
What they mean: I am over time but also technically correct when I say that this is my last data slide. The next five slides deal with the conclusions, broader implications, future directions, and acknowledgments.

What they say: The implications of this study are profound and have the potential to influence cancer drug discovery.
What they mean: The implications of this study are profound and have the potential to get me a good postdoctoral position.

What they say: How much time do I have left?
What they mean: I know I am over my allotted time by twenty minutes, but this ploy always gets me an extra ten minutes.

What they say: I think we’ve set the stage now and we’re actively looking opportunities to commercialize our invention.
What they mean: I think we can get a patent out of this, but I have no clue how an actual commercial entity works and what they look for in potential products.

What they say: I’m happy to share the source code and reagents with anyone who is interested…
What they mean: I am happy to share this source code and reagents with anyone who is interested but not before we’ve milked them dry for additional publications and conference abstracts.

What they say: This slide represents five years of work done by a graduate student in my lab, Wong.
What they mean: This slide represents nine years of work done by a graduate student in my lab, Partha.

What they say: I see you’re reading my poster and I won’t bother you, but if you have any questions let me know.
What they mean: Screw you. My Principal Investigator would only let me come to Hawaii if I presented a poster.

What they say: Do you want me to run you through my poster?
What they mean: Do you have twenty minutes to listen to me talk about my work without making eye-contact while assuming that you already know the background of my work?

What they say: I have a comment and a question…
What they mean: I have neither a comment nor a question, but I am a tenured windbag. I have a timeshare and am close to retirement.

What they say: I have a question with two parts…
What they mean: I have five questions with seven parts for each.

What they say: No, we haven’t gotten around to doing those experiments. But certainly those are ones that we were planning on doing.
What they mean: No, we haven’t gotten around to doing those experiments. And frankly, we hadn’t thought of them before either.

What they say: That is a very interesting question…
What they mean: That is a lame question. Were you Reviewer 3 who had the particularly harsh comments on our manuscript?

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

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11 thoughts on “What scientists say at meetings versus what they actually mean

  1. Hahahaa.. I attend the Seminar series in Uni, and yup, every time a Prof opens his mouth, I can read the subtitles (such as the above) that flow with his words.

    Hilarious and true, as usual.

  2. It’s fabulous how when you narrate the truth it sounds hilarious.You have talked about scientists here and i take the liberty to include almost everyone including me.
    Enjoyed ur post as usual.Gr8!

  3. What they say: How much time do I have left?
    What they mean: I know I am over my allotted time by twenty minutes, but this ploy always gets me an extra ten minutes.

    Hahaha.

    Gives us an insight into the funny side of brilliant minds.

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