The Higher Education Academic Conference Racket
1. Promotion from assistant professor to associate professor with tenure at most universities is primarily based on publications in academic journals and presentations of research at academic conferences (which often then lead to publications). Sure, teaching counts too, but marginal, below-average teaching can usually be offset by a strong publication record (but not vice-versa).
2. Promotion from associate professor with tenure to full professor is also primarily based on academic publications and presentations at academic conferences. Sure, teaching counts, but see above.
Therefore, there is a HUGE demand from thousands of tenure- and promotion-seeking professors across the country (and around the world) to attend academic conferences, present their research, and then hopefully have that research subsequently published in an academic journal or in the conference proceedings, or sometimes both. Publications lead to tenure and promotion, and often large pay increases of $8,000 per year for promotion to associate professor, and $10,000 for promotion to full professor (those are the current increases at UM-Flint). Another factor that increases the demand for academic conferences is that all travel expenses, conference fees, and meals are generally paid by the professor's academic institution.
That explains the demand side of the market, which as I said is HUGE. Now what about the supply side? Of course, it's grown to meet the high demand and it's no surprise that there is a large and growing "academic conference industry," along with a large and growing industry for academic journals to publish academic research (which is typically ignored, except for a few other academics).
The National Business and Economics Society (NBES) is sponsoring the conference in Costa Rica and is just one of hundreds of academic organizations on the supply side of the academic conference and publishing industry. Previous NBES conferences have been held in Hawaii (every other year), the Lesser Antilles, the West Indies, Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Virgin Islands and Key West (and never in Duluth, MN, Sagniaw, MI, or Buffalo, NY). See a noticeable pattern? Hold an academic conference in early March in an exotic location like Costa Rica, and professors will flock to those events, with all expenses paid for by their
Now, to attract the greatest number of scholars to an academic conference in an exotic location in March, should the organization make the academic focus of the conference broad or narrow? Obviously, it should be as academically diverse as possible, and the NBES isn't holding back, it invites scholars from Finance, Accounting, Marketing, Management, Information Systems, Operations Research, Economics, Public Health and Administration, Psychology and related areas. Wow, that's every department in the entire business school plus some almost unrelated departments in the College of Arts and Sciences!
For the last four years, the NBES has published electronic "conference proceedings" (password protected) of the papers presented, which could count as an academic publication for some universities. In that case, the professor gets credit for presenting academic research at a conference in Costa Rica and possibly for an academic publication for his or her paper in the conference proceedings, and that research may eventually lead to an academic publication, which may eventually lead to promotion, tenure and a large increase in salary.