At the 29th General Conference
Joensuu, Finland, August 22, 2006Chairs
: Liv Hobbelstad Simpson (Council Chairperson) and Andrew Sharpe (Executive Director)
Documents were available to meeting participants in hard copy at the meeting.
Liv Simpson called the meeting to order at 20:19 EEST (Eastern European Summer Time), with approximately 120 in attendance including Council members. The first order of business was to introduce to the membership the Chairperson of the Council for 2006-2008, Stephen Jenkins, to be formally installed later in the meeting; the new elected Council members for 2006-2012, Barbara Fraumeni, Markus Jäntti and Ed Wolff; and the new co-opted Council members for 2006-2008, Ole Berner, Karmen Hren and Xianchun Xu. Liv Simpson thanked retiring Council members, adding her regrets that Brian Newson and Paul McCarthy were unable to attend.
Two former members of the Association had passed away in the past year. Kees Oomens served as Council Chairperson for 1961-1963 and was one of the most famous Dutch statisticians. Sir Jack Hibbert was the head of the UK Central Statistical Office from 1985 to 1992 and presided over important changes in UK statistical practices.
Liv Simpson introduced and welcomed the three recipients of a bursary program instituted by the Association for the first time for the present General Conference for the professional development of economists in the national accounts and household surveys divisions of statistical agencies in low-income countries. Ketso Kadzi Makhumalo of Botswana, Peter Mukuka of Zambia and Thembinkosi Shabalala of Swaziland were the successful applicants and are being asked to write reports on their experiences at the conference. Liv Simpson also introduced and welcomed Lizzie Chikoti, the head of the National Accounts division of the statistical agency of Malawi.
The Association had been successful in obtaining the institutional membership of Slovenia in 2005 and of Bulgaria and the Czech Republic in 2006. Liv Simpson welcomed these three new institutional members.
Report of the Executive Director
Andrew Sharpe highlighted the main points of the Executive Director’s Report, which was among the documents available to meeting participants. The year 2005 was one of transition for the Association, with the move of the Secretariat from New York to Ottawa and the adoption of a new set of by-laws. Over this period the Secretariat also migrated to e-mail communication and an online payment system.
Institutional and individual membership have increased. In terms of individual members, the Association has obtained 59 new members so far in 2006, 40 of whom joined the Association at the same time as registering online for the conference. Andrew Sharpe commented that he hopes these new members will renew their memberships. The total number of individual members in the Association including those nominated by institutional members is currently 410, up from 383 in 2004.
A number of innovations were implemented at the present General Conference for the first time. Besides the bursary program for economists in the national accounts and household surveys divisions of statistical agencies in low-income countries, a financial assistance program designed to give partial assistance to paper givers was also instituted. Out of 22 applicants, 16 authors were receiving support for conference attendance through this program. For the first time the present General Conference was to include a poster session. Finally, the number of parallel sessions at the present conference was significantly increased relative to past conferences. Council would be discussing the potential continuation of these innovations for future conferences at its meeting on Thursday, August 24. It was noted by some members that it was unclear, since all papers were available online before the conference, whether authors are still required to provide 50 copies of their paper in hard copy. Andrew Sharpe clarified that this is no longer required.
Andrew Sharpe expressed his thanks to former Secretary Jane Forman and Chairperson for 2004-2006 Liv Simpson for their support and assistance in the recent period of transition.
Report of the Treasurer
Treasurer Peter van de Ven reported that questions still remained about the financial statements of the Association for the years 2002, 2003 and 2004 due to incomplete financial records, and that Council had decided to close the books for these years without approval or disapproval. He also discussed the main points of the financial statements for 2005, which were among the documents available to meeting participants. The Association had a very healthy financial position in 2005, due especially to a new contract with Blackwell Publishers including an increased guaranteed annual advance, the continued support of institutional members and a reduction in costs. (Also, about one third of the change in net revenues between 2004 and 2005 is attributable to the move from a cash to an accrual accounting basis.) The Association’s auditing firm, Watson Folkins Corey LLP, have stated that the 2005 financial statements present fairly the financial position of the Association in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, and Council had approved the 2005 statements at its first meeting on Sunday, August 20. The healthy position of the Association is forecasted to continue for the next two years, leaving room for new initiatives.
To ensure transparency and clearly define the financial operations of the Association, Council has approved a set of Standing Orders for Financial Operations, which, in part, require that the Association’s financial statements be audited annually. Peter van de Ven recommended retaining the services of the present auditing firm, Watson Folkins Corey LLP. Andrew Harvey moved that the services of Watson Folkins Corey LLP be retained. Donald Roy seconded, and the motion carried unanimously.
Some members sought clarification on the treatment of the Ruggles Trust. Andrew Sharpe responded that there is a single investment account for all of the Association’s assets, but that the Ruggles Trust is tracked separately within that account. The current value of the Trust is approximately $16,000 (US dollars), and this has stayed roughly constant over the past few General Conferences as the payouts for the award have been offset by good rates of return. Some members suggested that the 2005 financial statements be presented on both a cash and an accrual basis to provide an overlap year between the two accounting bases and that the revenue share from institutional membership over time be published.
Report of the Editors of the Review of Income and Wealth
Stephan Klasen, co-editor of the RIW with Bart van Ark, highlighted several issues related to the journal for the period of August 2004 through July 2006. He reported that the Editors have made some changes to try to improve the quality of the journal since taking over the editorship at the beginning of 2005. Both major innovations – the move to electronic submissions and the institution of a double blind refereeing process – have been successful. Also, the copyright policy changed in 2005, so that authors now retain the copyright and the journal has the exclusive right of publication, as opposed to the journal retaining the copyright. As of 2006, the page budget of the journal was increased to 720 pages per year from 640.
The rejection rate for August 2004 through July 2006 was about 80%, which the Editors consider acceptable. Over the same period the distribution of published articles has been centered on the areas of micro and macro analysis of issues related to income and wealth and their distribution; measurement of poverty, inequality and well-being; development and integration of micro and macro systems of economic, financial and social statistics; and international and intertemporal analysis of income, wealth and productivity. A much lower proportion of published articles have been in the area of national and social accounting. Most published articles originated from Europe and North America over the same period, as has traditionally been the case. The time between submission and publication decision has improved over this period, but the Editors are aiming to improve it further, and will be presenting Council with ideas to achieve this at its meeting on August 24.
Some members asked if the Editors would be seeking proposals for special issues of the journal. Stephan Klasen replied that, with the increased page budget, the Editors have been considering increasing the number of issues per year from four to five, in which case there would be an annual special issue. Members should therefore feel free to make suggestions for special issue topics. Some members asked if information on citations and downloads could be made available. Stephan Klasen replied that some download information is publicly available, but that there is a low correlation between downloads and eventual citations. Blackwell does collect more detailed citation data, and the Editors will talk to Blackwell about publishing this information in the online Editors’ Report. Stephan Klasen said that members should feel free to bring potentially high-impact papers to the attention of the Editors, since more frequent citations will help to improve the journal’s low “impact factor”, a rating important in journal rankings.
Nancy and Richard Ruggles Prize
Thesia Garner, a Trustee of the Ruggles Prize, reported on the awarding of the prize for the present General Conference. She stated that the purpose of the prize is not just to provide travel funds, but to honour the promise of a young scholar. For the present conference, three applications for the prize had been received. The winning application, from Cecilia Kwok Ying Lam, was judged by the Trustees to be outstanding. Thesia Garner introduced and welcomed Cecilia Kwok Ying Lam and encouraged members to attend the session in which her paper would be presented.
Installation of the New Chairperson
Liv Simpson introduced the membership to Stephen Jenkins, the Council Chairperson for 2006-2008, welcomed him to his new position and invited him to take over the chairing of the present meeting. Stephen Jenkins thanked Liv Simpson and said that he would like to pay tribute to her not only for her years of commitment to the Association but also for her devotion to low-income countries in her work with the Norwegian statistical agency.
By-law Modification for Charitable Status
Stephen Jenkins explained that, as a result of the Association’s application for charitable status in Canada, the Canada Revenue Agency had responded with suggested changes to the Association’s by-laws that, if adopted, would guarantee the granting of charitable status. He explained that he felt the changes were minor, and further that the granting of charitable status is very important for the Association, since without it the net revenues of 2005, and likewise surpluses in any future years, will be subject to Canadian corporate taxation. The suggested changes were among the documents available to meeting participants. At its meeting on Sunday, August 20, Council had approved the suggested changes conditional on favourable legal counsel being obtained on the suggested changes as a whole, especially with reference to whether the suggested change to the by-law concerning dissolution will allow transfer of assets to another country prior to winding up. Michael Wolfson moved that the changes be made conditional on favourable legal counsel. Peter Saunders seconded, and the motion carried unanimously. No motions were accepted for additional modifications to the by-laws.
Report on the 2006 General Conference
Ari Tyrkkö gave a brief overview of the activities of the organizing committee for the present conference from its first efforts in 2003 to the preliminary presentation given at the 28th General Conference in Cork, Ireland in August 2004 and its work over the past two years. He reported that electronic conference registration has worked very well, and also commented that he feels that the success of Statistics Finland in keeping the registration fee below €1,000 is important. The total budget for the conference is €240,000-250,000, and there will be approximately 280 participants in attendance and 130 papers presented. Statistics Finland has circulated press releases in an attempt to gain exposure for the conference. Joensuu was chosen as the site for the conference because of its size and the ease with which participants could get from one conference site to another. The University of Joensuu is the most eastern university in the European Union. Stephen Jenkins expressed his thanks to the organizing committee.
Some members asked why there was no CD-ROM prepared for the present conference with digital copies of all papers. Andrew Sharpe responded that all papers will be available on the Association’s website indefinitely, including any updated versions authors submit, perhaps making a CD-ROM unnecessary. There was wide support from members to produce a CD-ROM in any case, also including discussants’ PowerPoint presentations if possible. It was agreed that Council would discuss this issue for both the present and future conferences at its meeting on Thursday, August 24.
Reports on Future Conferences
The 30th General Conference will be in Slovenia in 2008, during the last week of August as usual. A tourist brochure on Slovenia was among the documents available to meeting participants. Karmen Hren played a multimedia presentation on Slovenia’s tourist attractions and main points of interest.
The 31st General Conference will be in Switzerland in 2010. Ruth Meier explained that, although Switzerland hosted a General Conference recently (the 22nd, in Flims, Switzerland in 1992), the 2010 conference will coincide with the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Swiss statistical agency. The conference will be held in the city of St. Gallen, in the northeast of the country, part of the German region, with all conference facilities in the city centre. There will be many options for the day excursion, but it will likely include a traditional trolley ride through the mountains.
There will be a Special Conference in September 2007 in Beijing, China. The theme of the conference, to be jointly organized by the Association and the National Bureau of Statistics of China, will be “Experiences and Challenges in Measuring National Income and Wealth in Transition Economies”. Stephen Jenkins invited Xianchun Xu and Harry Wu to report on the organization of the conference. A call for organized sessions and papers has already been published on the Association’s website, and will also be published in the September 2006 issue of the RIW. The conference will start on Monday, September 17, 2007, and will be three to four days long including a one-day excursion. The accommodation package will probably be for six days to enable those who wish to arrive early and/or depart late to do so. The NBS, which will be providing some subsidization, has indicated that registration costs, to be paid by participants, should be comparable to those for General Conferences. Association members who are not presenting papers or organizing sessions will be welcome to attend, but there will be a maximum of 100 foreign (non-citizens of China) participants due to a policy of the Government of China. A specially prepared multimedia presentation could not be played due to technical difficulties, but it was agreed that the presentation would be played during lunch or the poster session on Thursday, August 24 and would also be made available on the Association’s website if possible.
Session Proposals for the 29th General Conference
Session proposals had been sought from the membership prior to the meeting, and a set of 21 proposals submitted before the afternoon of August 22, 2006 was among the documents available to meeting participants. Stephen Jenkins announced that those proposing sessions, including those who wished to verbally propose sessions additional to the 21 for which written proposals were available, would each be given a few minutes to present and answer questions regarding their proposals. At the end of this process, Stephen Jenkins asked those present to raise a hand if in favour of a proposal as the titles of the proposals were listed. It was agreed that the indicative preferences of the membership thus obtained by Stephen Jenkins would be used by Council at its meeting on August 24 to decide on which proposals to approve. (The exception was the proposal for the first plenary session by the Slovenian statistical agency, which was approved automatically.) The list of proposal titles, including the names of those submitting the proposal and the approximate proportion of those present in favour of the proposal, is included as an appendix.
The meeting was closed by Stephen Jenkins following this process.