This afternoon, I'm heading to Bloomington for the "mini-conference," which the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis puts at the end of every semester. It is a wonderful institution which achieves two aims: (1) it gives graduate students the opportunity to get high quality feedback on their works-in-progress, while (2) acculturating them to the unique and slightly bizarre world of academic conferencing. Instead of having the students (and visiting scholars) present their own papers, their papers are presented by other graduate students or faculty members from various social science departments at IU. This afternoon, for example, I am presenting and commenting on a paper by graduate student Frederik Eisinger on "Payments for Ecosystem Services in a Common-Property Context: A New Opportunity for Forest Communities?"
Other papers at this semester's mini-conference cover topics ranging from rural development in Tajikistan, and heritage conservation in Hong Kong to Charter Schools in the US and more theoretical papers on the robustness of institutional structures, and adaptive capacity. Attending the mini-conference is great way to learn a lot about a lot of different topics in a short period of time.