In the fall of 2020, Massimo Anelli, assistant professor at Bocconi University whose visit to the Industrial Relations Section unfortunately lined up exactly with the pandemic, suggested that a virtual regular get-together be organized for junior faculty and postdoctoral researchers in labor economics. With the support of the Section, the Junior Informal Meeting, or JIM, was born.
“The new virtual normal is improving day by day, online seminars work well, and working with co-authors on zoom is perfectly fine,” Anneli said in October of 2020. “However, one of the most productive aspect of the pre-covid academic life was meeting with colleagues for lunch or for a coffee and chat about research. My feeling is that these valuable interactions are now lost. So I proposed to other scholars in the section to organize a virtual space that tries to simulate those lost informal interactions. The idea is to meet on zoom once every two weeks to drink a cup of coffee together, bounce some research ideas off each other, get some feedback on preliminary work or just “vent” with colleagues about that regression that does not turn out the way we would like, or our latest publication adventure. Unfortunately, we cannot go to the Gym anymore, so I am very excited to take part to the first JIM (Junior Informal Meeting) session for some healthy mental exercise!”
Since then, JIM has been meeting biweekly. Oren Danieli, assistant professor at Tel Aviv University and visiting in the Section, noted, “This is a great way to get high-quality feedback on early-stage ideas, and in a friendly manner. This is especially useful these days when don't have hallway conversations.”
Another visiting scholar, Sara Heller, assistant professor at University of Michigan, commented that being able to meet informally with colleagues, even virtually, has a positive impact on more than just their respective research agendas. "So often when you present your research as junior faculty, you are trying to impress someone — senior colleagues, future tenure letter writers or referees, and so on," she reported. "At JIM, there’s none of that pressure. We’re all just trying to develop our ideas and learn from our data. Having this opportunity to brainstorm and bounce ideas off amazing colleagues has really helped make research fun again, especially during a time when fun is hard to come by!"
Until researchers can meet again in person for coffee, JIM is here to stay! (Photo taken before the pandemic)