‘This Is Intellectual Luxury’: The ICare Conference In Perm
Recently, this year’s International Conference on Applied Research in Economics, an annual event which has become one of the trademarks of HSE University-Perm, came to a closeend. Dmitriy Potapov and Dmitri Vinogradov spoke to us about the history and geography of the conference, its speakers and future plans.
Dmitriy Potapov, Associate Professor of HSE-Perm’s School of Economics and Finance, conference organizer
How the idea to hold a conference first appeared
The first International Conference on Applied Research in Economics was held in September 2013. It came about following a meeting with Dmitri Vinogradov and Grigory Kosenok. We were discussing how great it would be to organize an international academic event in our city where researchers from leading world universities could present their recent works.
During our discussion the iCare acronym was born. Its meaning ‘I care’ underlines the basic concept of the conference: we are not only interested in up-to-date professional studies, but also in those aspects of these studies that are related to practical and important results both for society overall and for individual economic agents.
Inviting the first keynote speakers
At first, inviting keynote speakers was a challenge: nobody knew about our new conference in Perm. Economists know that almost every process in the world can be described with distributions. We understood that preferences of potential keynote speakers and their readiness to come to Perm are heterogeneous, but if we chose, say, 100 candidates and sent them invitations, five of them would agree to take part in our event. It means that we just had to be persistent in communicating with enough foreign participants.
At that time, a project named ‘Group of Applied Market and Enterprises Studies’ was just beginning at HSE University-Perm, with Grigory Kosenok as its academic supervisor. We had a common interest in people involved in the empirical measurements of industrial markets. In fact, I took one of his key reviews and began to study the reference list. I selected several authors and just sent them a letter. This approach turned out to be successful, and the keynote speakers at the first conference were Michael Waterson from the University of Warwick and Sara Fisher Ellison from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The results of the first iCare conference
Right from the beginning, everybody liked it, it was a kind of intellectual luxury. For two days we were listening to exceptional papers from both keynote speakers and regular participants as well as communicating with colleagues in an informal setting. We immediately understood that it was good that the conference was not very big and that it took place in Perm. So we decided that it would become an annual event. Many things have changed since 2013: today foreign professors not only come with papers to us, but also work at HSE University; and through their network of contacts we can find leading researchers who can be potential speakers for future conferences.
Dmitri Vinogradov, Professor of HSE-Perm’s School of Economics and Finance, Associate Professor of Adam Smith Business School, University of Glasgow, conference programme committee chair
The subject matter of the conference
After the success of the inaugural conference we decided to make it an annual event and started preparing for the next one. We spent a lot of time deciding how to expand the conference’s subject matter in order to cover the basic areas of research at HSE University-Perm. Initially, applied economics was the key aspect, while later, finance and management were added. We never intended to make it an interdisciplinary conference, rather it is a platform which brings together academics from different areas but sharing common interests. However, interdisciplinary research may arise after the conference, if participants who got to know each other at the event, then start joint projects.
Selecting applications for participation
We invite keynote speakers personally, but all other potential participants submit applications. The number of places is limited: we are not trying to create an enormous conference, like the American or European Economic Association. Despite the large number of applications, we try to make everybody participating in the conference as welcome as possible. Every participant should be treated as special, and everybody should have the opportunity to communicate with others.
The conference geography
In addition to researchers from Perm and other campuses of HSE University, Russian iCare participants traditionally come from Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Yekaterinburg and other Russian cities. We also get plenty of, applications from other countries: from the UK, Italy and Germany to India, Pakistan and Australia. The basic criteria for selection are the quality of work and compliance with the format of the conference.
The special JIBE session in 2019
I was the organizer of a special session of the Journal of Industrial and Business Economics. Last year we held a special session in order to select papers for a special edition of this journal, and this year we decided to show that we were able to complete a full cycle from selecting papers and peer review to publishing in just one year (which is fast for an international research journal). At the session, the resulting special edition and papers reflecting the research interests of the journal were presented.
Our keynote speakers
The keynote speakers of the 2019 iCare conference, Ayelet Gneezy and Clemens Puppe, came from the USA and Europe respectively. Both of them have their papers published in some of the best journals available. Clemens himself is the editor of two journals. We always try to invite those speakers who can give advice from the position of an editor. We can then discuss the process of publication in journals: how articles are selected, how an editor communicates with peer reviewers, and why ‘immediate rejections’ happen.
The research of Dr. Gneezy from the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Marketing of Rady’s School of Management in the University of California (San Diego) focused on a wide range of subjects concerning consumer behaviour: prosocial behaviour and charity, social preferences (for instance, the recording of promises, negative reciprocity and justice), as well as factors that can influence quality of life. Clemens Puppe, Professor of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (Germany) delivered a lecture on solution of tasks in public choice: how a big number of people with different preferences can find a middle ground in distributing public resources, in order to minimize the quantity of dissatisfied parties and to maximize usefulness for society.
Organizing a conference is complex and painstaking work, but there is a significant reward that motivates us to do it again and again –immersion into a world of research ideas, a world that is opened to us through the applications submitted to the programme committee every year. It is hard to imagine what will happen next year, but one thing I can say for sure is that iCare-2020 will take place, and it is open to everything new.