Thoughts from the 55 hour non-stop ESA Conference

I am a long-time member of the Economic Science Association, if someone my age can be a long-time member of anything. This is an excellent group of people. The leadership team designed a virtual replacement for what would have been an annual in-person conference.

The first time I saw the schedule it seemed epic. The schedule runs for 55 continuous hours. There is an Asia-Pacific period, which from my perspective in the US starts at night and goes “late”. I would stay up to tune into some of those events. The European time period was during the very early morning in the US. People were given a presentation slot that occurred as a good time of “day” for them.

Here’s a tweet quote to demonstrate the dedication to helping us all keep track of what was going on:
Another #2020ESAGlobal Conference Hang-out. For 2 hours at 6am L.A., 9am New York, 3pm Paris, 9pm Bejing, 11pm Melbourne.

The willingness to think outside the box and take advantage of the virtual format impressed me. It seemed like there were trying to make everyone in the world feel included.

Virtual conferences are not the same as in-person. I prefer in-person conferences and I will return to in-person experiences when I can.

There are advantages to virtual conferences. I’m not the first person to notice this, nor am I the first person to wonder if there will be more virtual conferences after the pandemic has completely subsided.

Working parents face certain costs and benefits to leaving for a conference. Working parents enter a totally different world when they fly away from their domestic responsibilities and attend an in-person conference. The flying is expensive and the domestic responsibilities have to be taken over by someone. Nothing if free. The benefit is that the working parent has an opportunity to focus on their profession which I consider to be valuable.


In a special social session, I had a chance to hear Ryan Oprea talking. I’m going to make a plug here for all of his work. He’s incredibly smart and dedicated to his craft. He’s generous with good ideas and practical help. Maybe you haven’t heard of him if you are Very Online, because instead of tweeting out hot takes he’s writing enduring research papers and doing professional service.

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