The First Meeting of the Young Social Learning Researchers

Published by Marco Smolla on

A quick introduction

Hi, I’m Marco. I recently started an initiative to connect young researchers (Masters, PhDs, Post-Docs) from diverse backgrounds (spanning from archaeology, biology and physics to psychology and philosophy), whose work broadly falls into social learning and cultural evolution. The aim of this initiative is to initiate a first contact between researchers and to get in touch with each others projects, but also facilitate future cooperation (you would be surprised how many people work on similar projects).

Together with my engaged colleagues (like Matt Creasey, Alecia Carter, Harry Marshall, and others) my goal is to organize socializing events (many great ideas come up in a pub), seminars (to present our work), and workshops (to learn from each others research techniques).

Pre-Conference-Pub-Meeting of the YSLR

To kick-off this initiative, I hijacked the Culture Conference a week ago at Birmingham University. Hoping that some participants of the conference would not only arrive a day earlier but were also interested in my idea, I organized an informal meeting at a pub on Wednesday evening. To get an idea how many would come (if any at all) I set up an online questionnaire (here) where everyone who wanted to join sign up with their name, mail address and a short description of their work. Together we distributed the link to the form to work groups in our field.

I was surprised (and very pleased) by the quick response of 40+ researchers. I did not expect to receive so many reactions. At the pub we were about 14 Master and PhD students as well as Post-Docs, from St. Andrews, Durham, Exeter, Manchester and even Århus. Thanks again to everyone who could make it. It was great to talk to so many like-minded colleagues about their exciting projects.


Besides other topics we also discussed what shape the #YSLR initiative could take on. Their were three points raised:

  1. Staying in touch – Creating a mailing list, which can be used to distribute information about upcoming meetings, conferences, new papers of members, enquiring help, etc.
  2. Exchange – Organizing a (one day) seminar for members with short talks about our projects as well as discussions about the pressing questions in our field (see below).
  3. Socialize (my favourite of all suggestions) – A one weekend get-together in Snowdonia, where we combine hiking and cooking with networking, socializing, and enjoying being a young researcher 😉

I’m currently setting up the mailing list at my university, though the IT is very slow in responding. I hope to have something running by next week. If you would like to be part of the mailing list then please fill out this form here.

I will have a look into points 2 and 3, and I will be needing help for this. So, if you would like to engage with our project, please let me know. I’m happy about every response.

At the Culture Conference in Birmingham 2016

From 9th to 10th June we and many more researchers joined the Culture Conference, organized by Elisa BandiniEva Reindl, and Claudio Tennie. Have a look at their website to get an idea of the line-up of speakers and topics.

What can I say, ‘t was a great conference with thought provoking talks, enlightening discussions, and inspiring speakers. From what I took away, the main questions that stand unanswered or are highly controversially discussed in cultural evolution are:

  • What is an acceptable definition for cumulative culture?
  • What are the necessary mechanisms for culture to evolve?
  • Is it time to bury the cumulative culture ratchet?

(Have you got more? Use the comments below!)

I hope these are topics we (as YSLR) will address and discuss in one of our future meetings, and hopefully add to their resolution.

Until then, stay tuned!




About the author

Categories: Communication

Marco Smolla

Post-doctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, USA, with an interest in cultural evolution theory.


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