I attended IIFET 2010 in Montpellier, France, this summer. I had a great time, meeting colleagues from around the world. IIFET stands for the International Institute of Fisheries Economics and Trade and organises biennial conferences. I’ve been to a couple of conferences, but never to an all-fisheries one; it was a pleasing experience (I’m a fisheries guy).
In addition to the social/network aspect of going to conferences (which is, perhaps, 50% of my motivation to attend conferences), I appreciate the plenary sessions. I observe that many conference participants skip the plenary sessions, but I cannot understand why. The conference organizers have, probably in most cases, tried tried their best to get the best and most interesting plenary speakers. Most times, invited keynote speakers have important and interesting things to tell you (it cannot be everyday they have the attention of an entire research field, and if they realize, they will struggle to make their talk matter). A missed plenary is a missed oportunity to learn from and listen to someone important who has something important to say.
One of the plenary speakers at IIFET 2010 was Anthony Scott, Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia, 87 years old, and a living legend in fisheries economics.* In his talk, he applied Thomas Kuhn’s ideas about scientific revolutions to fisheries economics. Truly amazing. Not only the idea itself, which seem obvious once it is formulated but still requires a wide perspective and intimate and detailed knowledge of the whole field to be formulated, but also that he remains relevant and contributes 55 years down the road. I just hope someone is responsible enough to make sure that paper gets published in one form or another.
The other speaker in the same plenary session was the IIFET 2010 Distinguished Service Award winner Susan Hanna. (Anthony Scott was given the IIFET Fellow Award, by the way.) Her talk was another plenary I wouldn’t have missed. She critisized how the current practice (meaning everything from publishing and hiring practices down to choice of words and metaphors) in fisheries economics, and in much of economics for that matter, failed to fulfill the ideal of any research activity; to be relevant in the real world, to inform policy, and to educate the public. I just hope everyone listened really carefully.
UPDATE: As Ann Shriver, IIFET’s Executive Director, writes in the comments, Susan Hanna’s presentation is available at the IIFET home page. It gets really interesting from slide 10 and onwards. Ann Shriver also confirms that both Scott’s and Hanna’s papers will be published.
* In 1955, Scott published the influental and cornerstone-article ‘The Fishery: The Objectives of Sole Ownership’ in the Journal of Political Economy. From a (fairly) recent praise-speak:
In present day fisheries economics, we accept [Scott’s] 1955 conclusions without question […] So, we can argue that [the] 1955 article provided the foundation for present day fisheries economics. It was, in fact, an article well ahead of its time.
Legendary status is further confirmed by the Anthony Scott fonds in the UBC Archives; a collection of all his letters, reports, lecture notes, and even desktop diaries(!), no less than 7.15 meters of ‘textual materials.’
Tags: Ann Shriver, Anthony Scott, Anthony Scott fonds, award, Fisheries Economics, IIFET, IIFET 2010, Journal of Political Economy, Montpellier, plenary talks, scientific revolution, Susan Hanna, The Fishery: The Objectives of Sole Ownership, Thomas Kuhn, UBC Archives