My first President's Column for the the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) newsletter is now up. Here's what I had to say (for ease of readability, I chose not to put the whole thing in quotes):
It is an honor and a privilege to serve as the AAEA president over the next year. My job is made easier because of the capable leadership and vision of prior presidents and boards. The Association is in a strong financial position and we have stable membership numbers. For all those who were able to make it to Boston, it is evident that we have a vibrant, well-attended annual meeting that shows off the diversity of interests and talents of our members. I even heard one person remark, “The AAEA is back!”
However, we have more work to do. For the association to remain relevant, we need to find ways to engage and provide value to early career professionals who are the future of the association. Cheryl DeVuyst and Norbert Wilson (the past and current chairs of the AAEA mentorship committee) are working with me to organize a symposium in the late spring or early summer of 2017 for early career professionals. The aim is to provide practical advice on successfully navigating the rigors of an academic career, and to provide an opportunity for young professionals to meet their peers and form a strong cohort for the future. Be on the lookout for additional details about the symposium in the coming months.
We are continuing to keep an eye on the Association’s publications, and at the end of September, the AAEA executive board and the editors of the AEPP and AJAE will meet to strategize and plan for the future. Some of topics of discussion will include impact factors, the rising number of submissions, invited papers, and opportunities for special issues or alternative types of submissions.
As incoming president, I was frequently asked about the cost of our annual meetings. Early registration for regular members and students were $405 and $105 for the Boston meetings. Our meeting registration rate is much higher than the ASSA meetings (which were $55 last January in San Francisco), but with roughly 10 times our attendance, the ASSA has much more bargaining power, not to mention the benefit of holding their meetings in the off-season. AAEA’s registration rates compare more favorably to similar associations. Regular member registration rates for the most recent WAEA & CAES, NAREA, AERE, and SAEA meetings were $268, $260, $325, and $400; for students the respective figures were $195, $155, $250, $200. Thus, AAEA’s registration rate is somewhat higher for regular members but quite a bit lower for students as compared to our sister associations.
It is important to note that the board has strategically chosen to operate the meetings at a loss—to the tune of about -$70,000 in both 2014 and 2015. Said differently, membership dues, income from journal subscriptions, and other revenues subsidize the annual meetings. Thus, registration would be more expensive if the meetings were priced at cost. The implicit subsidy arises because of a belief that getting a bulk of our members together in one place at the meetings creates a variety of positive externalities. It is, of course, possible to choose lower cost meeting locations. At present, we solicit bids from a number of locations and contract several years in advance in an effort to hold down cost. However, meeting attendance often falls when the meetings aren’t located in major cities. Moreover, we need locations that can provide enough meeting space to meet our needs. We use a large amount of meeting space relative to the number of hotel rooms booked, an outcome resulting from an effort to maximize involvement in the meetings. All this is to say that there are a number of difficult tradeoffs in choosing a location related to attempts to promote attendance, meeting involvement, paper and presentation quality, keep down cost, and more. The good news is that attendance this year in Boston was fantastic, only outpaced in recent history by the number of attendees in Washington, D.C., in 2013.
I welcome comments and suggestions on these and other matters of relevance to the Association. I look forward to working with you over the next year.