10 hints to make the most of teaching and academic conferences

Now that the conference season has ended for most of us Dr. Nic from Learn & Teach Statistics shares 10 useful tips and tricks when attending conferences. Although I learned some of these the hard way, some of them are actually new to me.

I have only one thing to add that I learned the hard way: know your audience both when you pick your clothes and when you prepare your slides. I’ve been overdressed a number of times (there really is NO need for a suit when dealing with environmental economists) and suffered through many incomprehensible presentations and probably made the public suffer through a number of mine.

If you haven’t been to a particular conference before ask friends or colleagues who have.

Learn and Teach Statistics and Operations Research

Hints for conference benefit maximisation

I am writing this post in a spartan bedroom in Glenn Hall at La Trobe University in Bundoora (Melbourne, Australia.) Some outrageously loud crows are doing what crows do best outside my window, and I am pondering on how to get the most out of conferences. In my previous life as a University academic, I attended a variety of conferences, and discovered some basic hints for enjoying them and feeling that my time was productively used. In the interests of helping conference newcomers I share them here. They are in no particular order.

1. Lower your expectations

Sad, but true, many conference presentations are obvious, obscure or dull. And some are annoying. If you happen to hit an interesting and entertaining presentation – make the most of it. I have talked to several newbies this afternoon whose experience of the MAV conference could be described…

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Why Are Dining Etiquette Rules So Illogical? Game Theory Tuesdays

Presh Talwalkar at mindyourdecisions.com

Everyone at my wedding reception table is getting served steak and chicken and they are waiting patiently until I get my vegetarian dish. It is proper manners, after all, that no one eats until everyone has their food.

Source: Why Are Dining Etiquette Rules So Illogical? Game Theory Tuesdays

Presh goes on to point out that dining etiquette is a costly signal to show that you are well educated. An interesting twist to this interpretation is that dining rules are culturally determined, as I’ve recently experienced.

For example, over lunch the Danes tend not to wait until everyone has their food. They usually start immediately, at least in the canteen. My suspicion is that this is due to the fact that most Danes bring their own lunch, as the Dutch do. Therefore, there is usually no need to wait. This in contrast to (Southern) Germany where lunch is typically a warm meal so the same rules as with dinner apply, and everyone waits.

Another interesting difference is that Danes tend to eat their lunch sandwiches with knife and fork rather than with their hands as the Dutch do. From a hygiene and a prolong your lunch point of view there is certainly something to be said for that custom, but if you’re not used to it, at times it does seem  bit strange.

This puts up an interesting but touchy subject: migration and integration. Personally, I still don’t eat my sandwiches with knife and fork, and in Southern Germany I continued to bring my own packed lunch, as I do today in Denmark, but at least I know of the rules. If dining rules really are a costly signal, in how far are they costly signals of being well integrated?

Brian Eno as a philosopher

The author of this blog is a friend of mine and a philosopher, specializing in logic and religion. He does occasionally have interesting thoughts on economics as well as the post below shows.

I agree that to some schools within economics the invisible hand is religion. They have been blessed (or cursed) with eternal faith in it. I’m not among those, but then again, I think that applies to many environmental economists.

As a final note on Thatcher and individualism: there has been a long debate (and still is) in economics on how to add up the preferences of individuals to figure out the preferences of society as a whole. And then Kenneth Arrow proved under very reasonable assumptions about humans that it was not possible!

Does that mean that society does not exist, or should not on occasions make choices for individuals? Of course not! But it does mean that we should be very careful when making decisions, and look at who is influenced. And that is in fact what environmental economics is all about…


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Nachdem der einflussreiche und militante ultralinke Kosmas Psychopedis verstorben war und der Fachbereich Wirtschaft des Athener Juridikums mich für seine Nachfolge ausgeschlossen hatte, lehrte Yanis Varoufakis auch das Fach Philosophie dort. Trotzdem überließ er jetzt in der Gründungsveranstaltung seiner postmodernen Partei (“linken” werden diejenigen sagen, die nicht so genau wissen) Brian Eno die Rolle des Chefphilosophen.

Enos Stellungnahme war philosophisch anregend! Er polemisierte gegen Smiths “unsichtbare Hand” mit dem Argument, die Vorstellung, es sei zum Besten der Wirtschaft, wenn wir uns in diese nicht einmischen, sei religiös. Und er brachte Hayeks (und Poppers und Schumpeters) methodologischen Individualismus sehr treffend auf den Punkt mit einem Zitat Margaret Thatchers: “So etwas wie die Gesellschaft gibt es gar nicht”.

Ich behaupte, dass Eno keinen Fehler beging, als er die unsichtbare Hand mit Religion gleichsetzte; ebenfalls keinen, als er Thatchers Spruch für Hayek für charakteristisch hielt. Allerdings behaupte ich, dass er…

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Welcome to my freshly created blog.

Knowing myself, I will not post things very regularly, but you are welcome to check this website whenever you like. I just might ventilate my opinion here, or leave a personal note about life in Denmark, or the world in general.

For the non-Dutch-speaking among you: the name of the website is a pun(t) on my  last name. Those who know me well, know I have plenty of these up my sleeve; they just tend to slip-out…