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I'm a staff scientist in a medium-sized lab and I'm organizing a large event for high school students at my university, a large public research institution. I'd like to invite a professor or senior researcher to give a talk at the event.

Is it generally considered okay to invite your close collaborators (e.g. PI, direct supervisors) to give a talk?

I have no misconceptions about the importance of my event (it's not) but I don't want to violate some etiquette by asking someone in my lab to give a talk. What about other events, small conferences, etc.?

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Yes, I think it's perfectly acceptable that you invite colleagues to give a talk at an event or conference.

There are many advantages for them if they give such a talk, for example:

  • disseminating their work
  • practising speaking to a non-expert audience
  • networking
  • free coffee/ lunch/ biscuits

If they don't want to do it, they'll decline your invitation and you can ask someone else-- a good choice might be PhD students who will actively want or need to practice outreach and public engagement.

Anyway, whoever you decide to invite, I don't think you've got anything to lose by asking.

  • We don't have any PhD students, but good suggestion. – Azor Ahai Oct 5 '17 at 23:11
  • In fact - it generally is viewed as an 'honor' that you consider someone capable of giving a good presentation on their research to a general audience at a school or organization you are supporting. (As opposed to, for example, using the work place as a place to find people to guilt into buying chocolate bars, popcorn, or the fund-raising item du jour etc to help support your organization) – Carol Oct 6 '17 at 17:18
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Yes, I think there is no more-reasonable thing than to ask a colleague to explain their work or related things, to various audiences. The colleague may also reasonably decline, thinking that they cannot provide a suitable context, or that they do not feel comfortable attempting to communicate well to the anticipated audience, but these are secondary issues.

That is, some people will, reasonably, feel that their current work is not easily consumable by any sort of general audience... and that they cannot, or are not interested in, giving a talk that gives the more digestible background. Not every expert has a good "narrative" about their work.

But it is certainly reasonable to inquire. At best, one has experts "spreading the good word". At worst, experts will be disinclined. Nothing lost.

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