Taking the stage for the first time as a PhD-student.

It’s been a mere three weeks since I started my PhD position in Uppsala and I’m in Swansea, Wales. The occasion is the conference ECCE (short for European Conference on Cognitive Ergonomics). Oscar Bjurling at RISE (https://www.ri.se/en/person/oscar-bjurling) and I got a paper accepted based on a project we did last year, when I was in the Cognitive Science masters program at Linköping University. “Human-Swarm Interaction in Semi-voluntary Search and Rescue Operations: Opportunities and Challenges” is what we’ve named our paper, and it’s a workshop-based study where we had discussions with experts about potential consequences of drone swarm implementation on search and rescue operations.

Having a paper accepted is all well and good, but it should also be presented. Being that this will be my first conference, I don’t really have a clue about the amount of people who will attend each presentation. I feel like it could either be a full stacked audience and bouquets of roses being handed out to every speaker, or just the one half-sleeping audience member glaring disapprovingly at every one of my attempts at arguing for seeing drone swarms as valuable search and rescue team members. With us being 11th in a line of 15 15-minute presentations the opening day, there is a definite risk that the eventual flowers will be saved for the keynote speakers.

Nevertheless, a presentation is due, and I think that we as researchers have a responsibility to make sure that the ones who do show up to see our presentation feels like it was worth it. Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned during my brief time as a university-employee is that there’s always something else you could be doing. There will definitely be people there who are stressed about grading papers, writing ethics applications, or other potentially more important stuff than watching our presentation. Now I don’t plan to completely take after the late Hans Rosling and pick up the noble art of sword swallowing for this presentation, partly because of time issues, but also because I couldn’t see the “It [The Sword] is for scientific purposes”-argument going all too well at the security check-in at the airport. However my ambition is to convince at least somebody in the audience that looking into the potential of drone swarms might be a good idea.

Similar thoughts of presentation responsibility struck me when I, in the role of teacher assistant, presented a couple of ethical issues at a seminar last week. Not only could the students probably learn more about the Trolley Problem on Youtube than from me, but I’m actually standing there claiming to know about this subject to the degree that I could be teaching it to university students.

So when preparing for this presentation, I’m being meticulous about representing the thoughts of the experts we talked to correctly, so that I can confidently argue for our analyses and conclusions, while at the same time taking the responsibility of putting on a show seriously. Because if I don’t bother, why should the audience?