Hurricane blows a hole in conference output

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The last minute cancellation of an academic conference due to an approaching hurricane in 2012 caused a sizeable decline in collaboration and research, a study from the University of Kent has shown.

In August 2012, just 48 hours before the American Political Science Association (APSA) Annual Meeting was due to begin in New Orleans, a powerful hurricane (dubbed Hurricane Isaac) formed in the Atlantic, which forced the late cancellation of the event.

In the wake of the cancellation, Dr Raquel Campos and Dr Fernanda Leite Lopez de Leon from Kent’s School of Economics worked with Dr Ben McQuillin from the University of East Anglia to assess the impact this had by stopping collaborations between academics taking place.

They did this by comparing the number of papers that are usually produced between academics after attending the APSA conference and other similar events and the decline that occurred after the cancelled 2012 meeting.

Overall they said there was a 16 per cent decline in the likelihood that an academic would produce a paper with another attendee because of the event’s cancellation.

Furthermore, as conferences usually provide an opportunity for researchers from geographically distant institutions but similar or complementary areas of expertise to meet, the collaborations that usually form lead to the highest quality research.

As such not only did the hurricane impact the quantity of papers that would have otherwise been produced but also the quality.

The findings have been published in The Economic Journal in a paper entitled Lost in the Storm: The Academic Collaborations that Went Missing in Hurricane Isaac.

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