Closed Meeting of the Research Training Group “Early Concepts of Man and Nature”

A weblog entry by Laura Borghetti.

January the 30th and 31st, Retzbach am Main: surely there is no better way for the GRK's crew (Fig. 1) than to begin the new year with a Klausurtagung (Closed Meeting). If one should choose three words to define this two-days meeting, they would be: solid team spirit, intense brainstorming and cosy but – at the same time – extremely functional location. 
Figure 1: GRK's Klausurtagung Team (Photo: Laura Borghetti).
But, first, I would like to explain more precisely what a Klausurtagung is in the framework of a Research Training Group in a German University, such as – in our case – the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz: Thanks to the funding made available by the German Research Foundation (DFG – Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft), the PhD students of the Graduiertenkolleg 1876 – Frühe Konzepte von Mensch und Natur had the chance to spend two days in a different location, in order to discuss several internal issues and forthcoming events related to the GRK. No professors or guest scholars were to take part in this meeting and the students could freely plan, debate and better get to know each other. In fact, it was the first Klausurtagung since October 2016 when the new generation of PhD students had begun their three-years research period. Being able to create a harmonious and collaborative working environment is crucial in a research group, whose success is tightly bound to an effective interdisciplinary exchange among PhD students. 
Thanks to this solid team spirit, we did much fruitful brainstorming: eventual innovations for the GRK's weblog; a default layout for the posters that will represent the research projects of the GRK members – especially in view of the application for an extension of the GRK’s funding by the DFG; a future excursion related to some of the PhD students' research topics. More in detail, the necessity of a different approach in the weblog management had been felt by all participants: not only should the blog report the various academic experiences of the members of the GRK, but it should also properly share and enhance the students' enthusiasm in their activities, and promote academic initiative and events beforehand, maybe even through a concurrent use of social networks. These are only few of the topics and ideas the students discussed in Retzbach. In fact, especially the "new entries" had the possibility to exchange their first impressions, ask questions, clarify doubts, and receive suggestions and opinions about the research activity by the "elder" students. 
Figure 2: Plaque on the door of our meeting room (Photo: Laura Borghetti).
The whole meeting could not find a better location than the Benedictushöhe in Retzbach am Main (Fig. 2). This complex, refashioned especially for conferences and meetings, makes available to its guests anything they need: wide and bright conference rooms with a lovely view on the quiet flow of the river Main, which are equipped with several essential tools, such as projectors, cupboards, roomy desks and comfortable chairs (Fig. 3). Different kinds of beverages are at the guests' disposal, who are thereby offered a chance to cool down and stay fit during the long working hours. 

Figure 3: Our meeting room (Photo: Laura Borghetti).
In conclusion, I would like to highlight one more time the importance of this group activity in the framework of the GRK. Exchange of views, collaboration, mutual trust and empathy are essential in making a working environment pleasant and productive. In short, this Klausurtagung has, in my opinion, been one of the key elements in the development of the GRK's team spirit.