Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The dangers of conference collaboration 

It's the same in academics as in politics. When you decide to write up a conference, you mostly need money. Whomever gives you money usually wants to control the program, either by picking your speakers or putting themselves somehow into the conference.

So sure enough, when I saw on the program this morning that the conference has six cosponsors, I predicted the conference would be long. And indeed it was. If you were affiliated with a sponsoring group, you had a half hour to make your presentations and nobody interrupted you with a card for "time remaining" (a common thing at these conferences, if you're not familiar -- "5 minutes"; "2 minutes"; "time's up"; "for the love of God STOP!!!") On the other hand if you are not with one, you get the cards. A friend of mine from Macedonia presented a very interesting piece of work on the similarities between the countries, but off he went.

One of the organizers told me that a sponsor brought a flag to display. Flags at an economics conference. You'd be right to think that unusual. Now three sponsors were the IMF, the World Bank and the UN. I'd see one of them with a flag, sure. But it was not them. It was a bank. I'll guess they didn't get TARP money.

He who pays the piper waves the flag.

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