Professional Association for Kids

I come to this distinguished readership begging for inputs and advice.

I was recently appointed as a board member of a professional association (for the history of economics) in representation of the interests and needs of its younger members. Though obviously the young members of that association could have shown much better judgment, now it is too late for correcting that failure, and I need to take action in the pursuit of their/our interests.

So, what are the needs and interests of young historians of economics? When I think of it, I often feel that what I need most is to be listened to and taken seriously. And this is precisely what I intend to do first: listen to the requests and proposals of the young members and take them very seriously. But, however noble such attitude may sound, there are many more and far more practical tasks to be attended to.

In my first round of proposals, I suggested to:

* set up the association’s blog – need I refer to the main source of inspiration for that idea?

* organize professional training workshops for the young – to openly deal with questions such as “how to referee a scholarly paper” or “how to prepare a class/course”. These are central professional skills for academics, and yet we only learn them indirectly, by imitation and trial-and-error, but I believe we could make use of direct instructions as well.

* start a regular newsletter with job openings, conferences, and such useful information – requested by another young member of the association.

* get the working paper series started – I proposed it a few years ago, it’s been launched, but has been lying dormant ever since.

* find some publication outlets for the best papers presented at the annual conference by the young members. (We also thought about prizes – as in monetary prizes – for the best papers and dissertations, but this will ultimately depend on the health of the association’s wallet.)

* expand the association’s network, both nationally and internationally: more exciting colleagues plus more exciting papers equals more fun… ehm, I mean, professional growth – suggested by a senior board member.

As for you, dear readers of this blog, what do you think a professional association could/should do for its younger members?

5 thoughts on “Professional Association for Kids

  1. Advise them to:
    1. Do your job
    2. Don’t try to do someone else’s job
    3. Don’t let anyone else do your job
    4. Publish or perish

  2. I don’t think the young need more of the same.
    We do have working papers series, at the HES, and it could use with a few more entries. more tentative even, and fresh in outlook. My mail is daily flooded by newsletters from my university, from research institutes, from associations, I could do without another, most I don’t read anyway. (I am happy that the mailing lists of HES and ESHET have joined.)
    At the school where I did my PhD we got a few days training/intro on how to referee a research paper, prepare a course/reader, get published. I think the “Association” need not set up these workshops itself but may lobby for them at the Universities, which seem better equipped to offer them. Ultimately, I think being a scholar is a craft practice like any other and you can only do it by part imitation, part invention.
    I don’t want to sound totally negative and dismissive of your blueprint. We could use more blogs, more social networking as you suggest. More importantly, we need to keep track of who is out there working in the wilderness (relative to our urbane luxury 🙂 ). We need to recruit fellow students/post docs to attend our meetings. We need to meet and start talking.
    I hesitate in institutionalizing too much, setting everything up for the entrants. Even too easy publishing can be a poisoned gift, a young scholar needs to impress as much as by quantity as by quality, and a rush to publish is counterproductive. I think the young should be devising their own reading groups, their local seminar series, so train themselves to be better and go out for drinks afterwards (set up some decent socials!).
    We hear from the pulpit at these Association meetings that we are sickly, dying, dead field. I doesn’t feel that way when some 4 or 5 young scholars talk about their work at some corner of the meetings. There is strength in community.

  3. I fully agree that we do not need more of ‘exactly’ the same, but I believe that here and there we can make use of more of ‘almost’ the same.

    I especially share your last remark that there is strength in community: I indeed set the strengthening of our community as my main goal. The blog, obviously serves this purpose. And so do the training workshops. The members used to meet only at the yearly conference. Now, I am trying to arrange more opportunities to interact, and so create a tighter network, by offering something that universities do not usually offer (though possibly they are in a better position to do so), which will hopefully motivate the members to attend. (By the way, the workshops do not need to be only professional-training ones.)

    That there exist numerous newsletters with job openings in the Anglosaxon univeristies or English-language conferences is indisputable, but the same is not necessarily true about job openings in Italy and conferences in Italian. [It is remarkable that that most recipients do not even read those newsletters, but this is rather a point against ‘those’ newsletter (why do people not read them? are they too frequent? too broad-ranging? too narrow?) than against newsletters in general.]
    I, too, have mixed feelings about the newsletter – partly because a good one for historians of economics in Italian is already maintained and circulated through another association (the joint-newsletter sounds like a good idea) and partly because there are alternatives (a section of the blog/homepage). However, I was asked by another member to make sure we have more information about (especially) post-doc fellowships and research grants in Italy, which is why I took interest in this matter.

    We are also hoping to expand our network to the international community. We always have students and scholars from abroad who join our conference, but so far there has not been a stable conversation. Do you have any recommendations/suggestions?

  4. I agree with the points made by Tiago (and those made much more briefly by Loic…). My first general reaction to actions towards “the kids” is that we don’t need distinctions as “newsletter for young scholars” vs “regular newsletter” and so on. Creating labels may be unproductive and hazardous (it’s an odd type of affirmative-action initiatives…).
    I have nothing to add to Tiago’s main point that we already have most of the suggested initiatives. What we need to do is to have forums for networking and to recruit “kids” to conferences and so on.
    On the other hand, if there is a concern that the Italian conferences should aim to be more international and have more young attendants, one major constraint to foreign young scholars attend conferences in Italy (or in any other country) is funding. So, a stable conversation could be achieved with travel funds for foreign young scholars…

  5. Thank you all for the advice: it forces me to sharpen the projects before the board meeting and it’s both valuable and appreciated.

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