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Regular version of the site

‘A Week of Academic and Intellectual Pleasure’: HSE Hosts April Conference for the Twentieth Time

On April 9, the XX April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development kicked off at HSE University. Since its inception, it has become Russia’s biggest academic and expert platform in the social sciences and economics, as well as an important international event that attracts researchers from all over the globe each year. Fuad Aleskerov and Andrei Yakovlev, members of the Conference Programme Committee, spoke with the HSE News Service about the results achieved over the past 20 years, relevant topics, and plans for the future.


 Fuad Aleskerov
Fuad Aleskerov
 Andrey Yakovlev
Andrei Yakovlev

20th Anniversary of the April Conference

Andrei Yakovlev: The history of the conference started in April 2000 after the presidential elections. Vladimir Putin had already been elected Russian President, but had not yet been inaugurated, and German Gref’s Centre of Strategic Development had not completed its work. Experts and business representatives alike were trying to understand what would happen to the country. The HSE conference became a public platform where they could find answers to their questions.

The first conference consisted of four or five sections and lasted only one day. By today’s standards, it was a medium-sized, department-level conference. The idea of sections was initially intended for them to be academic in nature, covering both economics and the other social sciences, and the very first conference already featured sessions on sociology and law. Development and expansion of the conference is undoubtedly tied to the development of HSE University itself. In the year of the first conference, the university consisted of five faculties, and then we began to grow, expanding the scope of disciplines and subjects; this had an impact on the conference.

From the very beginning, the conference has been supported by the World Bank, with its official representatives regularly speaking at our plenary sessions. During the first years of the conference, we were attempting to create a platform where Russian scholars could present their best recent work, but later we decided to expand the agenda. The World Bank supported us, and the conference started to be positioned as a platform to discuss problems of developing and transitional economies in general, with international researchers being attracted to take part. In recent years, the conference has regularly featured over a hundred papers by international participants. This number has remained rather stable, despite all the events and crises.

Fuad Aleskerov: I remember very clearly how I joined preparations for the fifth April Conference: there were a few sessions and slightly more than 200 participants. Today, the conference has grown five times, and the sessions look at a much broader range of issues.

While in the early years only a few students were represented as authors of papers, today they actively take part in research and present their results. There are strong and talented students who are highly capable of participating in a ‘grown-up’ conference. I always say that some students are able to carry out research at a level that is no worse than that of some professors. Rank doesn’t matter here, although talent and hard work do.

I am happy that HSE University has become a kind of beacon and that all strong researchers believe that speaking here is a worthy thing to do. Of course, this improves its quality. The main achievement is that over these 20 years, the conference has become the country’s biggest academic and expert platform in the social and economic sciences, and the level of expertise and academic competency has grown considerably. The quality of papers is quite comparable with those presented at respectable international or European conferences.

Learn more about the conference, its focus topics over the last 20 years, participants of plenary sessions and media coverage at April Conference. Anniversary

Honorary Speakers at the XX April Conference

Fuad Aleskerov: A number of international researchers have traditionally come to us. For example, this year, Bernard Grofman from the University of California, Irvine (USA) will deliver a lecture on ‘Electoral Rules and Ethnic and Gender Representation.’ I studied the results of his fundamental sociology research back in the 1970s. We are expecting Professor Friedrich Pukelsheim from Germany, the world’s most renowned expert in proportional representation methods, and Madeleine Hosli from Leiden University, the Netherlands, who is an expert in decision making.

As always, I’m thrilled in anticipation. The conference is a week of continuous academic and intellectual pleasure. This year, we have a number of interesting speakers in the sections on Theoretical Economics and Political Processes. Of course, there will be presentations in macroeconomics and various roundtable discussions.

Andrei Yakovlev: I would like to emphasize the presentations by our traditional participants, Ronald Inglehart and Jacques-François Thisse, who have headed strong international laboratories at HSE for many years. At the same time, there will be new notable speakers. For example, there is Carl Fey from Aalto University with his paper about the role of organizational culture in facilitating innovation Russian companies, or Ali Farazmand from Florida Atlantic University with a presentation on the ‘Role of the State and Public Administration in the Age of Contested Globalization: A Political Economy Analysis with Implications for Economic and Social Development’.

Together with foreign guests, each year we invite our Russian colleagues to deliver honorary reports at the conference. This year, it will be Alexey Vedev, who won a medal from the Association of Russian Economic Think Tanks (ARETT) last year for his outstanding personal contribution to the development of economic analysis in Russia. He will speak on ‘Key Risks of Socio-economic Development of the Russian Federation in the Medium Term.’

Why Organize an Associated Events Programme?

Fuad Aleskerov: We introduced an Associated Events programme at the April Conference for the first time several years ago. There are a lot of papers by representatives of HSE University, but it’s not a good idea to make sections and sessions that only consist of papers by our researchers. On the other hand, it is an objective process, and it’s not fair to reject papers simply because the researchers come from HSE. So, we’ve invented this format. In addition, there are associated events that take place under the ‘umbrella’ of the April Conference, but on other days.

Andrei Yakovlev: The associated events’ format has existed for several years, but starting this year, we decided to make it bigger. The university has considerable variety, and the forms of discussion in various areas differ considerably. For example, the Faculty of Communications, Media, and Design presents the results of research as projects or ready-made objects. Associated events give our colleagues an opportunity to present their results in any convenient form.

Interestingly enough, this format draws interest from several strong academic teams, such as the Laboratory of Comparative Social Research and the Center for Market Studies and Spatial Economics. A team of HSE teachers used this format to initiate a special workshop on Applied Econometrics. Some other associated events that I believe might be of interest to a number of colleagues include the EACES workshop on state capitalism and the workshop on ‘Social Orders: Nature and Dynamics’ organized jointly with ARETT and based on a major project carried out in 2016-2017 for the Centre for Strategic Research. This year’s April Conference programme includes a wide range of miscellaneous associated events, and I believe that this step reflects our movement towards higher flexibility of the conference.

New Areas as a Response to Demand from Society

Fuad Aleskerov: For the second year in a row, together with Boris Morgunov, we have been organizing a special section on Arctic studies. This hasn’t yet been widely advertised, since we are afraid to get too many applications. This region is the focus of attention today for both academic and political communities, and the topics in this section are extremely diverse, ranging from culture and health care to economic development of the Arctic region. We hope that over time, HSE will launch a separate conference on Arctic studies, which will allow us to accept hundreds of papers.

One more section that I have been organizing together with Svetlana Maltseva is ‘Instrumental Methods in Economic and Social Studies.’ This is a new, rapidly developing area of studies. For the second or third year in a row, the April Conference has included a section called ‘Sports Studies.’ Sports is a serious area of research today, and I’m thrilled to watch this section developing.

Andrei Yakovlev: New areas for the April Conference always come up in discussions. We are organizing a summarizing programme committee session in May, where we will discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what should be improved. At the same time, we are discussing next year’s conference and selecting the areas of focus. For example, the theme of the Arctic region has evolved, among other reasons, in the context of political discussions that took place two years ago, and the decision to organize a separate section was an attempt to react to demand on the part of the authorities and the global community at the academic level.

Outlook for the Future

Andrei Yakovlev: We’ve tried to ‘cut’ the scale of the conference. We have toughened the requirements for applications, held a serious selection process, and introduced an additional rule that says one session cannot include more than two papers by one institution, meaning, first of all, papers by HSE. But we faced a paradoxical situation: it turned out that in some subject areas, there are not that many people beyond HSE who are able to present high-quality research. As a result, we found a kind of transitional format: on the last day of the conference, we have organized special sessions with research results from HSE.

Fuad Aleskerov: I have to say, the conference has become a major event over the last 20 years, and it’s hard, but we can’t restrain this growth. If you have good papers, you can’t cut their number only to make your life easier. On the other hand, we understand that such big conferences require relevant venues. Logistics are becoming more difficult every year, and while everything goes smoothly thanks to our Event Organization Office, this requires a lot of effort.

I believe that the conference will continue developing in the future. I hope that the number of international participants will grow. Today, we cover a whole range of academic areas related to social and economic development, but new areas continue to evolve both in Russia and globally, and we are keeping an eye out for it. A decade ago, who would have thought about economic models with regard to sports?

In addition to the extensive academic programme, the conference includes plenary sessions. A schedule is available here.

See also:

Russia’s Middle Class: Who Are Its Members and How Do They Spend Their Money?

The HSE Centre for Studies of Income and Living Standards studied the dynamics of the middle class and its behaviour with regard to paid services. The study was based on data drawn from the HSE Russian Longitudinal Monitoring Survey (RLMS-HSE) for the years 2000 to 2017, and the results were presented at the 20th April International Academic Conference hosted by HSE.

Reproductive Evolution: How Birth Rates Are Changing in Post-Soviet Countries

Reproductive behavior is modernizing at different rates in post-Soviet countries. Things are changing faster in Russia, Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine, where, over the last fifteen years, the average maternity age has increased and the contribution of women in their thirties to their countries’ birthrates has grown. Meanwhile, old reproductive patterns persist in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where firstborns are usually born to parents under 30, demographers Vladimir Kozlov and Konstantin Kazenin note in a paper delivered at HSE’s XX April International Academic Conference.

Live Long There and Prosper: How Internal Migration from Small Towns Works

More than half of school graduates in medium-sized Russian cities will change their place of residence either forever or at least for a long time. According a report on internal migration presented by HSE demographers at the XX April International Academic Conference, these people are lost to their cities.

What Drives Innovation in Russian Companies

As part of the Management session of the XX April International Conference, Carl F. Fey from Aalto University School of Business, Finland, presented his paper on Facilitating Innovation in Companies in Russia: The Role of Organizational Culture. In his talk, Professor Fey spoke about the results of three studies he has been conducting with his team.

‘In a Digital Environment, the Role of Human Teachers Only Becomes More Important’

How does digital technology affect the behavior and health of schoolchildren? What opportunities does it proved teachers and school administrators? These and other issues were discussed by participants in the plenary session ‘Children’s Wellbeing in the Digital Age’ at the XX April International Scientific Conference of HSE.

‘Statistics Should Be Available and Comprehensible to Everyone’

Implementing a digital analytical platform, opportunities for Big Data, and other prospects for the development of Russian statistics were discussed by participants at a plenary session of the XX April International Academic Conference.

Can Youth Bullying Ever Be Eradicated?

Dr. Dorothy Espelage (University of Florida) presented a comprehensive account of her research into youth bullying spanning more than two decades in an invited paper ‘Prevention & Intervention of Youth Bullying and other Forms of Youth Aggression: Research Informed Strategies’ at the XX April International Academic Conference.

‘To Achieve Our Goals, We Need to Involve a Wide Range of Universities in National Projects’

The role of regional and industrial institutions of higher education in achieving national development goals must increase, and leading universities will help them. This was the conclusion reached by participants of the plenary session on Russian higher education that took place as part of the XX April International Academic Conference.

How to Boost Russian Food Exports

The plenary session ‘Strategy of Russian Presence at Global Food Markets’ took place as part of HSE University’s XX April International Academic Conference, where participants discussed the prospects for Russian agricultural exports to Asia, as well as the use of nonconventional investment models, such as Islamic financial tools.

‘The President is Focused on Increasing the Birth Rate and Reducing Poverty by Half’

National objectives for social development, as well as existing risks and opportunities in implementing these objectives were discussed by participants of HSE International April Conference.