“No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there”
F. Scott Fitzgerald
I believe that regular conference attendance should be a priority for academics. In addition to receiving feedback on works in progress, they permit a survey of the contemporary state of your discipline. They also provide an opportunity to visit interesting places and socialise with good people.
When I’m in the audience I place papers into one (or more) of the following categories:
- Grad school bollocks – at least two papers in one, way too ambitious, naivety of youth, yes it’s obviously a fascinating topic, but to become a serious scholar you need to contribute to the literature, not write about what interests you
- Go do it – makes sense, but where are the results??
- Robust but trivial – what have I learnt?
- Important but flawed – yes, I’m afraid the obvious comeback does invalidate your findings, regardless of how praiseworthy your efforts might be
- WTF? – Possibly genius, but way over my head…
“If you ever go to the ball room of a hotel where there’s been an academic conference you see men and women who roll uncontrollably to the music… off the beat…. waiting for the end so they can go home and write a paper about it.”
Sir Ken Robinson
Here are my thoughts on various conferences:
- The most important is the European Academy of Management. I found the selection process to be competitive (I’ve had a submitted paper rejected) but worth it. The session that I participated in was organised with great attention and there was excellent feedback. It was quite expensive, but is usually in an interesting European city.
- The Royal Economic Society is well regarded but I’ve never been. I would also like to attend the European Conference on Entrepreneurship and Innovation.
- For several years I have been impressed by the programme for the Prague Conference on Political Economy, and intend to apply at some point.
- The two front runners are the Academy of Management and Strategic Management Society. Both of them have had Austrian panels but I am yet to attend. They are typically pricey and competitive.
- The most important economics conference is the American Economic Association. I haven’t submitted to attend because it’s in the first week of January, which is a crazy time to have a conference. However, it is a great opportunity to see the most famous economists, and is also a focal point for the US job search.
- The Southern Economic Association is a wonderful conference because there are many sessions organised by the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics. This offers a great combination of professional prestige and direct relevance (note that there tends to be a trade off). The SDAE is full of friends and I enjoy seeing what they are working on. There are also appointed discussants so you are guaranteed quality feedback.
- There have been some SDAE panels at the Eastern Economic Association as well. The main advantage this has over the Southern’s is that it’s more likely to be a direct flight from the UK.
- I regularly attend the Association of Private Enterprise Education. It alternates between Las Vegas and somewhere more exotic and has a youthful energy. The emphasis on pedagogy is excellent because I always feel that my teaching, as well as research is benefitting from attendance.
US political science