Media Briefings

THE ROLE OF CONFERENCES ON THE PATHWAY TO ACADEMIC IMPACT: Evidence from a natural experiment

  • Published Date: March 2015

Presenting an academic paper at a large conference can be expected to gain the authors 17-30 readers over the subsequent two years, and the effect is largest for scholars in the beginning of their careers. These are the messages from novel study by Fernanda Leite Lopez de Leon and Ben McQuillin to be presented at the Royal Economic Society’s annual conference 2015. Their research uses a natural experiment to try to determine whether the sizeable investment of researchers’ time and resources in attending academic meetings is actually worthwhile.

Though the issue is of considerable significance – both to academics themselves and to the bodies that fund their projects – nobody has previously been able measure the benefits of academic conferences. The difficulty has always lain in the fact that no respectable conference randomly selects which papers will appear, and so one cannot normally isolate the ‘conference effect’.

But just before the US Labour Day weekend in 2012, the imminent landfall of Hurricane Isaac forced the American Political Science Association (APSA) to cancel – at less than 48 hours’ notice – its vast annual meeting. Though this was, of course, a considerable inconvenience and disappointment to the organisers and to the nearly 3,000 authors who had been due to present their work, it provided a unique opportunity for these researchers to try to measure effects of conferences on articles’ academic visibility.

With funding from the Leverhulme Trust, they have been tracking the academic impact of the 3,000 papers that were due to have been presented at the cancelled meeting, and comparing indicators for such impact with those for papers presented in previous editions of the same conference and for papers presented in a similar conference – the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) – which was not cancelled in 2012.

ENDS


The Role of Conferences on the Pathway to Academic Impact: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Dr Fernanda Leite Lopez de Leon, Lecturer in Economics (Presenting and contact author)
School of Economics, University of Kent, Canterbury.
Webpage: http://www.kent.ac.uk/economics/staff/profiles/fernanda-leite-lopez-de-leon.html
Email: F.De-Leon@kent.ac.uk
Phone: +44 (0) 1227 827438.

Dr Ben McQuillin, Lecturer in Economics
School of Economics, University of East Anglia, Norwich
Email: B.Mcquillin@uea.ac.uk