Discussion about the LFCS Lab Lunch

Initial message sent to forum-users

Currently, on Tuesdays Mini-Forum 2 is used by LFCS for their lab lunch.
I fully understand why they use it -- they're used to having the lab lunch in
their common room, and this forum is the closest equivalent in the new building.
It's not a good use of the space, though. The lab lunch is really a lecture 
with 30-40 people attending.  The attendees take all the couch space, the doors
have to be closed to avoid annoying people in the closest office, and walking
through the space to get to the roof is like walking up the middle aisle of a
lecture hall mid-lecture -- not socially acceptable.  It's not even a good set-up
for those attending, since some of them end up sitting looking over their
shoulders at a projection on the wall that's fuzzier than it would be on a

Please recommend to PRC a policy that meetings which take this form be held
in a meeting room if a meeting room that's large enough is available.

Response from James Cheney

I don't presume to speak for the rest of LFCS, but the suggestion of moving lab 
lunches to a seminar room appears to be based on a misconception.  Lab lunches 
include talks, but they are not lectures; they are intended to provide scope for 
social interaction, introducing visitors, etc.  Moving to a seminar room would 
defeat this purpose.

Here is a description of Lab Lunch that I think explains why it would not work very well in a seminar room like 4.3x or G.03:

The LFCS Lab Lunch was originally established to afford an informal gathering of LFCS members. This remains its focus. Whilst everyone is expected to contribute in terms of regular attendance and the odd occasional talk, it should be viewed as an opportunity to get to know others in the Lab whom you may not have daily, or even regular, contact with and as a way of informing yourself about what others are doing.

Although talks are likely to be primarily technical in nature, this is by no means an obligation on the part of the speaker -- subjects can, and indeed have, varied widely. The Lab lunch offers an opportunity to speak on matters of interest to you. Whether those are, for example, a particularly vexing problem in your research, general directions of and/or motivations for your research, a report on a recent conference or meeting you attended, or even 'what I did on vacation', the important point is that talks should be short (20 minutes or so) and relatively "lightweight". What Lab Lunch should not be seen as is "yet another theory seminar".

(From http://www.lfcs.inf.ed.ac.uk/events/lablunch/spirit.html)

I agree that the current setup is bad for all parties, and have cringed several 
times when people have clearly felt that they ought to leave or that they weren't 
welcome to use or cross the room during such meetings.  However, MF2 is really the 
only space in the new building that can be used for this.

I don't think anyone in LFCS wants to be a bad citizen in this regard.  But, it 
doesn't appear that these complaints have actually been addressed to any of the 
responsible parties, as, I would have thought, the principles of good citizenship 
would recommend prior to seeking to impose behavior changes via policy.  Anyway, I 
think it would be easy to improve the way we make use of the space we are using now 
to address the concerns raised. 

Subsequent comments from James Cheney

For the time being, we will:

1. Close the doors to the hallway during the talk
2. Post a sign on/next to the door saying the room is in use, but people
are welcome to come in or cross to the roof as long as they try to
minimize disruption.

We have also considered sending "MF2 will be in use from 1-2pm for LFCS
weekly meeting" messages to seminars@inf on Tuesday mornings, so that
people won't be taken by surprise, but this seems like overkill unless
problems persist.

It would be helpful to hear from people who have had problems before
regarding whether the above changes are enough.  e.g. is noise still a
problem for the neighboring offices with the doors closed?

Comments/concerns about this can be directed to me (jcheney@inf).
Topic revision: r4 - 13 Mar 2009 - 12:48:55 - JamesCheney
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