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President's Column

February 2020

I will begin by thanking those who have given comments on the draft AAEA strategic plan. This is an opportunity to develop important priorities for our association. This will guide programming and budget decisions in years ahead.  Our board will review the input from members to develop a final version that will be shared with the profession.

Our sessions at ASSA were well-received and the T.W. Schultz lecture by Susan Athey gave our members a fascinating insight into her work on causality in machine learning contexts. I encourage our profession to pursue these applications to enhance the opportunities in both academia and in the private sector.

Plans are coming together for the summer meetings with a variety of posters, papers, and organized symposia. Several pre/post conferences are being prepared for your consideration. New events and student competitions are coming together to lead me to be excited about the program at this year’s conference. A pre-conference workshop in particular that I will mention is one that Ashok Mishra and others have gone to great lengths to develop a workshop regarding careers in the private sector.  Ultimately, I hope that we can attract those who work in the private sector to maintain members and engage in our professional meetings.

Finally, I want to speak to you regarding engagement on policy issues. Our tradition of policy engagement is robust and has been impactful. For those of us in the scientific community, we must staunchly defend our right and responsibility to be objective and avoid the appearance of partisanship. Our value is in our unbiasedness. However, we increasingly confront a policy environment that asks us to pick sides or may provoke us to have a preference. One of the experiences that taught me is a conversation with a congressional staffer who simply could not comprehend our aspiration to be objective. Being relevant also demands we engage with policymakers and thought leaders in language they can understand. The graduate student section is organizing a new contest for graduate students that will engage them in presenting policy analysis to policymakers. I applaud the initiative the graduate section has shown to prepare themselves for this important professional role. 

Keith Coble
AAEA President