Inaugural RES Symposium of Junior Researchers 2015

The Inaugural Royal Economic Society Symposium of Junior Researchers took place at the University of Manchester on the 2nd April 2015. This article is based upon the report to the RES prepared by James Lincoln.1

The aim of the symposium was to bring together a large group of PhDs (at all stages) to present and/or attend for the discussion of their ideas, and provide a non-intimidating platform for networking. The organisers were:

Michael Graber (UCL)
James Lincoln ( University of Manchester)
Christiern Rose (University of Bristol)
Spyros Terovitis (University of Warwick)

In spite of rather short notice, they compiled a balanced programme which was well-attended. Furthermore, informal feedback over coffee and other breaks was almost entirely positive and suggested that attendees found the event very rewarding. (See the comment from the prizewinner).

The event
The symposium was hosted at the University of Manchester in the University Place building, the same venue as used by the Royal Economic Society Conference 2015 on the preceding days. Delegates were provided with a name badge and lanyard on arrival. These were of the same format and branding as used in the main RES conference. Maintaining these close parallels with the main RES Conference helped secure a number of discounts with the result that the costs of the event were minimised.

The format of the symposium was a number of parallel sessions throughout the day, followed by a keynote presentation. In total there were 15 sessions spread over 5 teaching rooms at 3 time slots. Each session contained 3 presentations of 20 minutes followed by a 5 minute discussant and 10 minutes discussion. Generally the format and diversity of topics was well appreciated by the audience, specifically the inclusion of a discussant. In addition to seminar sessions, there were a number of posters presented (15 invited, 7 attended) in the area where refreshments and lunch were provided. Those who presented posters confirmed that these were well received and generated active feedback.

The keynote presentation was given by Sir Richard Blundell in the main lecture theatre of University Place and was very well attended.


Conference promotion
The call for papers was sent to a number of emailing listings; Spyros had access to departmental lists for US and European institutes, Michael emailed the PhD coordinators for ‘ENTER’, and Kimberley Scharf2 sent to the CHUDE and RES mailing lists. Details of the event were also included in the RES mailing to CHUDE promoting the RES ‘£10 PhD discount scheme’. It appears that in many cases emails via CHUDE took several prompts from the local organisers before they were forwarded on to the PhDs. Emails directly to administration staff and PhD coordinators generated a better response.

The symposium website was built as a collaborative effort between the organisers based on the Google Sites platform. The website contained details of the call for papers, the submission process, registration, and the final programme.

Submissions and refereeing process3
Submissions were accepted via email as full papers or extended abstracts. All email communication was conducted using a specific Gmail account that all organisers could access and respond to.

Assistance in forming the scientific committee was provided by Dan Rogger4 (through the RES Junior Fellowship Network), with a total of 18 people volunteering their services to referee submissions. Submissions were assigned based on field, with no single referee being assigned more than 10 submissions. On the whole the process worked well, although Kimberley Scharf stepped in at the the last minute to assist when a couple of referees failed to meet the deadline. Members of the scientific committee were asked to assign a score of 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent) for each assigned paper. They were also invited to nominate a single paper for the best paper award.

For the programme, all papers with score of 5 were automatically accepted to present. Then for all submissions with a score of 4, the following criteria were applied for selection:

• Female presenters — in an attempt to keep a gender balance for presenters, submissions from females took first priority.

• Paper or Abstract submission — submissions with full papers were preferred.

• Subject matter — prior to the selection process there was no set topic for each session. The fields for each of the 15 parallel sessions were determined by the score 5 submissions. To keep each session ‘on topic’ score 4 papers were chosen to fill the gaps.

The remaining score 4 papers were given the opportunity to present their paper in a poster session. They were also informed that they would be put on a waiting list should any of the first round presenters withdraw. This waiting list proved useful as we had a number of late withdrawals, but we were still able to start the symposium with a full programme. Submissions with a score of 3 or below were immediately rejected.

We received a total of 204 submissions (in a 6 week submission period) from which a programme of 45 presenters and 15 posters (10 included on programme) were selected and confirmed.

Delegate registration
Registration for delegates was free to RES members and completed through an online form on the symposium website. Although information was included on the registration page some people found the registration process confusing in conjunction with the ‘£10 PhD discount scheme’.

In total 111 people registered, although there were a number of withdrawals once the acceptance / rejection notices were sent.

Best paper award
It was agreed before the event that a £100 prize would be awarded to the best paper presented at the symposium. It was decided that the name of the prize should be the ‘Royal Economic Society PhD Symposium Best Paper Prize’. Selection of the winner was selected from the nominations put forward by the scientific committee members and being decided by the organising committee. The prize was awarded to Ananya Sen from the Toulouse School of Economics during the keynote presentation.

' The RES PhD Symposium in Manchester provided a nice platform for doctoral students to come together and talk about their research. It was an event with many good papers and a wide range of topics which ensured that there was something for everyone in each session. It showed how doctoral students from all over Europe were working on such a diverse set of topics right at the frontier of their respective fields. Moreover, there was a discussant for each paper which made the feedback even better since apart from the presentation itself, there was one person who had taken the trouble to go through a draft of the paper.

The fact that it was held concurrently with the RES conference led to opportunities to meet different people and would have definitely increased participation at the Symposium. I think it's a great initiative on the part of the RES and I am sure it will go from strength to strength in the coming years. Finally, I would like to thank the Scientific committee for the award for the best paper. This award holds great significance since the Symposium was such a high quality event! ' — Ananya Sen (Best Paper prize winner)

Reflections
As the first (and experimental) meeting of this kind, the symposium was an undoubted success. The report lists a number of issues, mostly of an administrative kind, where improvements could be made for the future. But given its pioneering nature and the speed with which it was brought together, the symposium looks to have a very positive future.


Notes:

1. The full report can be read on the RES website at: www.res.org.uk/

2. Professor of Economics,University of Warwick

3. Statistics relating to costs, subscriptions, attendance, refereeing etc. can be found in the full report on line.

4. Development Research Group, World Bank, http://www.danrogger.com/vitae.html

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