Thursday, August 15, 2013

Networking at Poli Sci Conferences

A Duck of Minerva post has gotten heaps of attention because, well, Brian's attempt at humor may have flopped bigtime given the sexual harassment that does exist in the profession and does show up at conferences.

I posted this as a comment on the thread (with some modifications/links):
One can read Brian's post in a variety of ways. My reaction was mostly to the notion of networking down rather than up. I have always been more comfortable hanging out with the junior folk than the senior folk at the APSA and ISA.  I never liked approaching the big names who are very, very busy, but have enjoyed meeting the newer folks. I made a lot of good friends by going to the reception held by my old school, and meeting the next generation of folks. We had something in common--experiencing the same profs.

The business meetings of the APSA and ISA sections to which I belonged tended to be populated by younger folks, so that was an easy way to meet people. These folks led me to a poker game that introduced me to a senior faculty member who has become a mentor and mensch for me, but that was not my intent (I like poker).

When I worked on a speaker series at my old job, I wanted to include
younger/newer/female voices since the previous person to organize them tended to focus on big male names. As a result, I met several really interesting people who are doing fun work that changed how I look at the world and at my research.

As I get older, the potential set of "younger" folks widens, and I hope to keep meeting new folks at these conferences while remaining connected to those I have met before--the time does tend to fill up (contact those you want to see at APSA soon as dance cards do get full). This is a very social business, and you never know where your research will turn. The new scholars are more likely to turn you on to a new set of ideas or perhaps be excellent co-authors as they have the latest methods training.

To be clear, my networking at conferences was never very strategic--only once did I try to meet someone with the purpose of establishing a co-authorship (that did work out real well). But my non-strategic behavior has largely paid off in the sense that I know a larger community of people who do interesting work, some have become pretty influential people in the discipline, and I am now pretty well connected even if I am not wired into some big names/networks.
 Brian's post is already generating discussion about sexual harassment at conferences and beyond, which is a good thing.  My own take is that we have a real handicap when addressing this stuff because the legalities and norms usually mean that we throw a cloak of invisibility over cases of sexual harassment.  The intent may be to limit the damage down to the harassed, but in practice this serves to protect the harassers.  So, individuals develop impunity or a perception of it, which does not help the cause.  Perhaps developing better systematic understandings via surveys and such can help.

Anyhow, there is some baby and bathwater stuff in the original post, and I wanted to re-post my comments on networking here as APSA is less than two weeks away (crap!).

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