August 29, 2012, by ICCSR

Not another academic conference?

‘Not another academic conference?’ is the usual refrain from our friends and families as we pack our bags for another … er… academic conference.

And with our proverbial responsible and sustainable business hat on, the question – and implied criticism – are all the more telling.

I once heard a colleague explain that by attending an international jamboree he was ‘networking’ which sounds totally naff … ‘I network; you network; he, she or it networks’ …

So why did I join 11,000 others at the Academy of Management meeting in Boston?  Was it really worth us all travelling all that way (whilst there is a US core to the conference, delegates fly in from yet further than the UK)?

The core business of any conference is work in progress.  I presented papers on ‘CSR and the financial crisis’ (with Christian Herzig, ICCSR) and ‘CSR as mutual governance’ (with Jette Steen Knudsen, Copenhagen Business School). This is a good way of getting ideas tested by informed colleagues.  I listened to papers which interest me, including on CSR in China – the subject of a special issue I am editing with Peter Hofman (ICCSR China).

Much time was spent on activities which make the academic system work.  As a member of the Governance Committee of the Social Issues in Management Division of the Academy of Management (its largest division), I heard reports and discussed key policies.

As co-editor of the Cambridge University Press series, Business, Value Creation and Society I discussed imminent and potential books for the series.  As editorial board member of the journal Business and Society I discussed our policy and strategy.

I discussed papers with co-authors from such disparate places as Canada (Dirk Matten), India (Vasanthi Srinivasan) and Denmark (Jette Steen Knudsen), took advice on ICCSR matters (e.g. with Andy Crane), and caught up with PhD alumni, May Seitanidi and Iain Davies.

I hear the refrain: ‘Jeremy, have you not heard of the telephone, skype, emails, tele-conferencing?’

But somehow all these face to face meetings are so much more valuable than the alternatives.  I am ducking any efficiency argument regarding time and money and CO2 expended for academic output as I think that any such claim would just miss the point.  There is great value in just being there, interacting, seeing, listening, talking and being questioned.  I am old fashioned enough to believe that this is not just a model for academic flourishing but also for business-society relations.   

And yes, the conference does include some immensely convivial moments which are the icing but not the cake.  For example, I celebrated Rieneke Slager’s PhD with her and Jean-Pascal Gond (her former co-supervisor).  As you can see Mike Humphreys (ICCSR visiting professor) and I struggle to enjoy a Journal of Management Studies reception in the midst of discourses on French philosophy, economics and the future of management … and much more.   

But I was glad to get home.

By Professor Jeremy Moon, Director of the ICCSR, Nottingham University Business School

Image: Courtesy of Professor Mike Humphreys

Posted in Academic ACTIVITY