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A brown-bag seminar, session or lunch is generally a training or information session during a lunch break. The term "brown bag" refers to the packed lunch meals that are either brought along by the attendees or provided by the host. In the US, these are often packed in brown paper bags. Brown-bag seminars will normally run for one or two hours. Brown bag is commonly referred to as "a poor lunch", or too poor to eat out (he's "brown bagging" it).
The purpose is to utilize normal breaks, such as the lunch break, to provide information to attendees in a voluntary and informal setting. It is often followed by a discussion of the topic. These sessions are common at universities and private companies as a medium for knowledge management and internal communications.
In universities, especially for graduate students, brown-bag seminars are often offered to update the researching community about ongoing research. Usually held by schools, universities and governmental institutions, they involve lectures, presentations, or talks by researchers, mostly professors about their ongoing research. Professors may visit from other universities to talk about their research.