I have a friend at another university that I met at a conference a couple years ago. Since then, we usually make an effort to attend each other's sessions, grab coffee, etc. Last year he organized a session at our flagship conference, and I think he's organized a similar session several times before. I think it would be fun to co-organize a session together, but I would assume he's doing his usual session. Would it be rude for me to ask if he would like help organizing the session (i.e., adding me as a co-organizer)? Or is this the academic equivalent of asking, "Can I invite myself over to your house to play video games since I don't have a N64?"

For context, we are both at universities in the USA. He is an Egyptian-born Canadian citizen, and I am an American. He is a few years senior to me; he is in a semi-permanent research position, and I am a 4th PhD student. For the record, I don't think he would view this as rude because he is a genuinely friendly guy, and I think he could easily tell me "no." But I am more curious about the general etiquette of these things.

  • 1
    "For the record, I don't think he would view this as rude because he is a genuinely friendly guy" The existence of mismatches between inner perceptions and outward behaviors cannot be emphasized enough. Oct 9, 2017 at 20:00
  • @lighthousekeeper Good point.
    – haff
    Oct 9, 2017 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


I would not directly broach the subject. If you want to judge interest, the kinds of questions I'd ask are:

What do you have to do to organize a session?

If your friend mentions needing a co-chair, you could ask your friend if he has someone in mind.

But do not ask directly to be a co-chair for someone else's session. What you might instead want to ask is: "would you like to be co-chairs for a future session sometime?"


If you're friends, then if you think you can ask the question "I'll be at conference X again next week, would you like to go out for dinner?" then I think it's fair game to ask "I'll be at conference X again next year. I was thinking of organizing a session there myself, but then I also thought that it would be quite similar what you've been doing for the past couple of years. Would you be interested in doing it together this time? It would be good for my CV, and I could take some of the work off your hands."

If he doesn't appreciate sharing the work, then he can say no. I don't know anyone who would, though: He's going to have less work to do, and it's not like he gets less credit than if he did it alone. So why would anyone say no?

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