A Political Scientist Seeks to Reinvent the Scholarly Conference

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Big meetings have their attractions, says Mark Carl Rom, an associate professor of government and public policy at Georgetown U., but the experience of attending them could be improved. He offered some ideas in a paper published last year. Above, a scene from a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which drew thousands of scientists to Boston in February.

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Atlantic Photo Service

Big meetings have their attractions, says Mark Carl Rom, an associate professor of government and public policy at Georgetown U., but the experience of attending them could be improved. He offered some ideas in a paper published last year. Above, a scene from a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which drew thousands of scientists to Boston in February.

Mark Carl Rom often felt terrible when he attended big academic conferences.

When he was a graduate student, he chalked it up to nerves. As his career progressed, he confided to colleagues that he was bored by underdeveloped papers, poorly presented, and that he felt uneasy amid the social and professional anxiety that permeated the halls.

"I thought I was one of the lonely, alienated voices," says Mr. Rom, who is now an associate professor of government and public policy at