At every Board meeting of CPRsouth we provide evidence on the efficacy of our actions. Every time we seek funds for our work, we do the same. So we thought the question would be of equal interest to our colleagues engaged in similar enterprises, at TPRC and EuroCPR. We prepared two papers building on one another, one for each. The TPRC paper was presented last September, the Samarajiva_EuroCPR_Mar13_final a few days back.
There was much that I learned in the discussion, formal and otherwise. One question that stayed in my mind was by a friend: why are you being so utilitarian in your approach, trying to show how useful the activity of organizing communication policy research conferences. We just do these things, they give us a lot of enjoyment and good ideas. One good idea is enough. They cannot be quantified. Not exact language, but a paraphrase.
He had a point. If a group of people want to organize periodic gatherings or scholarly conferences for themselves, there is really no need to demonstrate benefits. The only exception would be activities that use public resources like CPRsouth.
Then I thought back to my experiences with scholarly associations such as ICA and IAMCR. Yes, there was a lot of voluntary labor involved. We put the time in because it gave us enjoyment and was good for our careers. But was it solely funded by individuals making these calculations? There are lots of subsidies embedded in the organization of scholarly conferences. Should there be some effort to assess the benefits beyond the enjoyment and the occasional good idea?