Cheap advice, twice

Today I had a couple of advice requests that might be interesting to readers of the blog. Especially if they think I’m wrong.

One came from a graduate student in my department, who asked whether or not I’d be interested in co-organizing an African politics conference. Strictly-speaking, this wasn’t an advice request. Nevertheless, it elicited one.

My response went something like this:

There is possibly nothing so time-consuming and unrewarding as organizing a conference while a grad student or junior faculty. From a strategic perspective, these endeavors are best left for the day you are tenured. Attending conferences is great fun, but organizing is onerous and thankless. If I were you, I would angle to attend, but focus 110% of my time on my job market packet.

Ironically, the same person who gave this advice (me) happens to write a blog. So maybe you should ignore my judgment on what is and is not academically wise. If you love it, maybe you should just do it. But who loves organizing a conference? Ugh.

Okay, advice opportunity number two. A reader with a real job writes:

I’m trying to keep my finger on the pulse of what the academic community is thinking about poverty issues. Unfortunately, I’m not too sure how to do this without subscribing to AER and a number of other academic publications that don’t always address poverty issues in any case. So far, all my mainstream media RSS feeds are too watered-down to really be useful. Are there any academically-oriented RSS feeds that you can recommend?

My first thought is that, if the American Economic Review (AER) publishes a paper that is useful for understanding on global poverty, it’s probably an accident.

Okay, that was a cheap shot, but the fact remains that mainstream economics journals will seldom publish the types of research of interest to the person who wrote that request.

Unfortunately, there aren’t too many world poverty research blogs, but the ones that are out there are pretty good: CGD, Dani Rodrik, and the World Bank blogs (1, 2 and 3) come to mind. There are other poverty-related blogs (many of which I link to frequently) but none that commonly highlight new research.

But if you really want to know what’s happening on the frontier of development economics, visit the caches of working papers regularly: NBER, BREAD, Brookings, IPA, J-PAL, HiCN, and CGD, to name a few. Not only do many of the best papers concentrate here, but they appear in draft form years before they ever reach a journal.

I’m certain to be missing RSS feeds and working paper series. Readers: any further suggestions?

8 thoughts on “Cheap advice, twice

  1. A minor dissent from your conference advice. I noticed in business school that some of the more eager beavers organized conferences primarily as an excuse to network with high-level job contacts. They’d call up the CEO of such-and-such company under the guise of extending a speaker invitation.

    No idea how this worked out for them, but it seemed like a clever trick. Of course, maybe this sort of thing works better in an MBA program than a more academic program. (Also, it’s worth noting that the conferences were pretty small affairs.)

  2. I’m most definitely not an academic, but I’m very happy you blog. You not only write posts but comment on blogs. You are a public intellectual, and the more the merrier.

    Your suggestions of feeds are good. The SSRC Blogs are worth a mention, in particular Knowledge Rules.

    I wonder, however if the pulse of the academic community might be best felt among more informal blogs? More than once I’ve seen bloggers say something to the effect: If my academic adviser knew I was blogging, she’d kill me. So perhaps feeds that I’m imagining are a bit subterranean. But my suggestion would be to ask a few smart graduate students with an interest in global poverty: “What blogs do you leave comments on?” to get a finger on the pulse.

  3. Also, there’s the ‘Ending World Poverty’ blog, from the Brooks World Poverty Institute at our own University of Manchester, which keeps on top of issues related to development and poverty reduction:

  4. Lane Kenworthy has a blog “Consider the Evidence” at that has some of the better discussion on poverty and inequality.