"Students don't tend to ask questions at these Journal Clubs. In fact, I think that the prevailing sentiment is that we're supposed to go easy on the students, because if we were up there wouldn't we want the same consideration? So, easy questions (eg. Can you define that negative control?) are ok, but the hard ones (eg. Those controls are very off. Can you still interpret the data?) are not."
As was the response from PhysioProf:
"The issue under discussion is whether there should be a principle of "solidarity" among trainees--grad students and post-docs--in public venues such as seminars and journal clubs, pursuant to which trainees do not challenge one another publicly, so as not to show each other up, or embarrass one another. The answer is a resounding, "Fuck no!"...
This kind of attitude is completely insane. The entire essence of science--what defines it as a profession--is that scientists ask all questions that present themselves, either of themselves or of others...
I gave a research seminar at another institution this week during which the audience absolutely hammered me with really good perceptive critical questions. I fucking loved it. It meant they were interested and engaged. What could be more boring than standing in front of a room blathering on in the face of polite indifference?
When you fail to ask a question, or raise a criticism, based on some misguided sense of "loyalty" or "solidarity", you are actively harming the scientist you think you are protecting. Because someone somewhere will eventually ask the question--a paper reviewer, a grant reviewer, a thesis committee member, a job search committee member, a job seminar audience member--and the sooner the issue gets raised, the sooner the scientist can address it."
I don't have much to add (I think PhysioProf is bang on, but I'm sure many students share Lady scientist's concerns) but I can certainly relate to the observations - Audience Apathy at lab meetings, journal clubs and seminars has long perplexed me. Even harder to understand is Speaker Apathy. Why do so many students and post-docs (sometimes even the ones giving the talk) bother to show up to group exchanges week after week if not to participate and interact?