In May, I'll be visiting a department at Columbia University in the US for a few days. What's the etiquette on visiting (answers relevant to US in general are welcome, to prevent this question getting too localised)?

I'd like to spend some time with quite a few of the researchers, and compare notes on ongoing work. I'll read their recent publications in advance. Should I be inviting staff out for a coffee and a chat; or dinner; or a talk in the lab?

Context: I'm a faculty researcher, and would be looking to spend a bit of time with postdoc researchers, and those professors whose jobs are primarily research, rather than admin or teaching.

  • Not from the US, but in our group we often go for lunch with guests (I think usually from our groups budget), they are asked (but not forced) to give a short talk about their work for everyone who is interested, they are introduced to the PhD students and postdocs, if one side is interested, they can always ask for a chat. Sometimes we have BBQ together or go hiking (that depends on how long they stay and how close friends they already are with people from the group). And they of course might set up appointments to talk to people not from the group, while they are here. They are guests.
    – skymningen
    Commented May 5, 2017 at 6:50

2 Answers 2


I think you are the person who would be invited out to lunch, dinner etc. as you are the guest :) ! However, there is nothing wrong with inviting your opposite number to talk in an informal setting. The only consideration is that you know the lay of the land!

Depending on how many days you would be spending at the US university, you might want to make a strategy on conversations and prospective collaborations.

I am assuming you would have results to show and tell and with a punchline at that. That generally helps.


Your host has a responsibility to make your schedule in such a way that it will be full and engaging.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to fill the schedule - it requires that people respond to the hosts invitations to meet with you. Your input can be helpful both in filling out the schedule and making sure that your visit is productive.

You can request to meet with specific people and ask for feedback from your host on who you might want to speak to.

I think it would be a good idea to request to meet with graduate students in addition to postdocs and senior scientists.

  • sometimes the opposite happens: and your schedule becomes unreasonably busy, where you are running from one short meeting to another with no chance to sit down for a few hours and talk/explore. Commented Apr 4, 2012 at 4:00

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