President's Report (2010)

Econometrica, Vol. 79, No. 5 (September, 2011), 1669–1673

THE ECONOMETRIC SOCIETY 2010 ANNUAL REPORT OF THE PRESIDENT

 

EVERY FIVE YEARS the Econometric Society puts almost all of its regional meetings on hold to bring people together at a single event—our World Congress. The Society is the leading learned society for economists in the world, so this event could not be more central to our activities. It was my great honor to serve as President during one of these special years. Although I was thus reprieved from travelling as much as other Presidents, I was ultimately responsible for the 2010 World Congress, which brought a degree of anxiety. My worries were much lessened once I appointed a superb trio of Program Chairs and it became clear that the local arrangements were in excellent hands. It is appropriate that much of my report focuses on the Congress.

Another critical challenge that arose in my year as President was the appointment of a new slate of editors of the Society’s flagship journal, Econometrica. But let me come to that matter after reporting on the World Congress.

 

1. WORLD CONGRESS IN SHANGHAI

Back in 2007, the Executive Committee took the bold decision to hold the Society’s Tenth World Congress, 17–21 August 2010, at the magnificent International Conven- tion Center on the Huangpu River opposite the famous Bund in the heart of Shang- hai.

This decision proved to be inspired. All records were broken. By way of advance preparation, to predict the number of papers submitted and hence the likely number of attendees, a highly sophisticated forecasting technique was employed, the subtlety of which can be fully appreciated only by members of the Econometric Society—namely, a regression of a linear trend plus Europe and Asia dummies. This proved quite hope- less. Instead of the predicted number around 2300, no less than 3031 submissions were received. As a consequence, the Program Committee had to be expanded from 95 to 118, eight extra lecture rooms had to be hurriedly found in a nearby building (not easy in downtown Shanghai), and even more hotel rooms had to be booked (this at the time of the World Expo in Shanghai). The 2010 World Congress was set to be the largest event in the history of the Society. Was there a danger that our Shanghai World Congress would eclipse the Beijing Olympic Games?

The parallel with the Olympics was drawn by the Mayor of Shanghai, Han Zheng, in his address that opened the Congress. The Econometric Society is most grateful to him for attending and for providing the crucial support of the city authorities.

It had been expected that a number of institutions in Shanghai might collaborate to run the Congress. As it turned out, essentially all the responsibility, and the financial underwriting, fell to Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), and it is to that institution that the success of the Congress must be owed. I am most grateful to SJTU President, Zhang Jie, for his hospitality and for giving the backing of his university from the start. The heavy burden of locally organizing the Congress was most ably carried by Lin Zhou, Dean of SJTU’s Antai College of Economics and Management, his colleagues, and his two principal assistants, Emily Gu and Larry Liu. Together with their large team of cheerful helpers, they made the Congress the especially happy and smoothly run occasion that it unquestionably was. On behalf of everyone who attended, I deeply thank all of them.

Much gratitude must also be expressed to Anne Usher, who, drawing on her expe- rience helping to run the 2005 World Congress in London, supported Lin Zhou and made a number of extended trips to Shanghai.

The intellectual program was terrific. Daron Acemoglu, Manuel Arellano, and Eddie Dekel formed an extraordinary triumvirate of Program Chairs. One could not dream of a team to better these three, who through their selection of program committee members, topics, and invited lecturers stamped their personalities on the Congress. They managed the complex process of putting together the program superbly. I am hugely indebted to them for agreeing to take on this onerous task. On behalf of all the members of the Society, may I warmly thank them.

We are also grateful to the 118 members of the program committee, who selected 1200 accepted papers from the 3031 submissions by authors in no fewer than 54 coun- tries. Veritably, a World Congress.

To give an idea of the scale and scope of the program, let me list, and thank, the four plenary lecturers, Elhanan Helpman, Orazio Attanasio, Whitney Newey, and Drew Fudenberg, together with the invited lecturers and co-authors: Tayfun Son- mez, Atila Abdulkadiroglu, Jonathan Levin, Monika Piazzesi, Markus Brunnermeier, Patrick Bajari, Han Hong, Victor Aguirregabiria, Aviv Nevo, Yuliy Sannikov, Bruno Bi- ais, Thomas Mariotti, Jean-Charles Rochet, James Robinson, David Stromberg, Jesus Fernandez-Villaverde, Juan Rubio-Ramirez, Frank Schorfheide, Massimo Marinacci, Itzhak Gilboa, Wolfgang Pesendorfer, Bart Lipman, Robert Shimer, Gianluca Vi- olante, Jonathan Heathcote, Kjetil Storesletten, Victor Chernozhukov, Susanne Schen- nach, Joel Sobel, Andrea Prat, Luis Garicano, John Van Reenen, Ivan Fernandez-Val, Josh Angrist, Marc Melitz, Ariel Burstein, Samuel Kortum, Jonathan Eaton, Pierpaolo Battigalli, Dov Samet, Dean Foster, Rakesh Vohra, Fabrizio Zilibotti, Gino Gancia, Andreas Muller, Chad Jones, Jushan Bai, Xiaohong Chen, and Oliver Linton. In addi- tion, I thank their discussants and the contributors to the invited policy sessions.

An important objective of this World Congress was to reach young economists work- ing at Chinese universities and institutions, who might not be able to afford to attend. With this in mind, I asked Lin Zhou to set up a competitive scheme for young faculty, postdocs, and promising graduate students. I thank him for running the scheme so well. Over a hundred participants were sponsored, who, if they chose, wore “Future Star” T- shirts in recognition of their success. Rumor has it that the T-shirts fetched a premium on the resale market.

In the years leading up to the World Congress, successive Executive Committees had set aside an annual amount of $80,000 so as to build up a $400,000 fund to grant financial support to participants. The task of distributing this money fell to the Pro- gram Chairs, who decided to offer funds only to accepted papers graded A or B, and to give more to farther regions. No money was given to senior faculty in the United States, Canada, or Europe (junior faculty were defined as 2004 and later PhDs). This eventually led to 36 grants of $600 being awarded to Chinese participants, 14 grants of

$1300 to Latin American participants, and 349 grants of $1000 to junior participants from the United States, Canada, and Europe. (Only a few invited lecturers chose to request funds.)

 

Whether this level of support can be offered to future World Congresses, 2015 and beyond, remains to be seen. Among other things, the Society will have to cope with the decline in revenue from institutional subscriptions that all journals face.

Report Year: 
2010

Back