As some of you will know, I have an abiding interest in the moral behavior of ethics professors. I've collected a variety of evidence suggesting that ethics professors behave on average no morally better than do professors not specializing in ethics (e.g., here, here, here, here, and here). Here's another study.
Until recently, the American Philosophical Association had more or less an honor system for paying meeting registration fees. There was no serious enforcement mechanism for ensuring that people who attended the meeting -- even people appearing on the program as chairs, speakers, or commentators -- actually paid their registration fees. (Now, however, you can't get the full program with meeting room locations without having paid the fees.)
Registration fees are not exorbitant: Since at least the mid-2000s, pre-registration for APA members been $50-$60. (Fees are somewhat higher for non-members and for on-site registration. For students, pre-registration is $10 and on-site registration is $15.) According to the APA, these fees don't fully cover the costs of hosting the meetings, with the difference subsidized from other sources of revenue. Barring exceptional circumstances, people attending the meeting plausibly have an obligation to pay their registration fees. This might be especially true for speakers and commentators, since the APA has given them a podium to promulgate their ideas.
From personal experience, I believe that almost everyone appearing on the APA program attends the meeting (maybe 95%). What I've done, then, is this: I have compared published lists of Pacific APA program participants from 2006-2008 with lists of people who paid their registration fees at those meetings -- data kindly provided by the APA with the permission of the Pacific Division. (The Pacific Division meeting is the best choice for several reasons, and both of the recent Secretary-Treasurers, Anita Silvers and Dom Lopes have been generous in supporting my research.)
Let me emphasize one point before continuing: The data were provided to me with all names encrypted so that I could not determine the registration status of any particular individual. This was a condition of the Pacific Division's cooperation and of UC Riverside's review board approval. It is also very much my own preference. I am interested only in group trends.
To keep this post to manageable size, I've put further details about coding here.
Here, then, are my preliminary findings:
Overall, 76% of program participants paid their registration fees: 75% in 2006, 76% in 2007, and 77% in 2008. (The increasing trend is not statistically significant.)
74% of participants presenting ethics-related material (henceforth "ethicists": see the coding details) paid their registration fees, compared to 76% of non-ethicists, not a statistically significant difference (556/750 vs. 671/885, z = -0.8, p = .43, 95% CI for diff -6% to +3%).
* People on the main program were more likely to have paid their fees than were people whose only participation was on the group program: 77% vs. 65% (p < .001).
* Gender did not appear to make a difference: 75% of men vs. 76% of women paid (p = .60).
* People whose primary participation was in a (generally submitted and blind refereed) colloquium session were more likely to have paid than people whose primary participation was in a (generally invited) non-colloquium session on the main program: 81% vs. 74% (p = .004).
* There was a trend, perhaps not statistically significant, for faculty at Leiter-ranked PhD-granting institutions to have been less likely to have paid registration fees than students at those same institutions: Leiter-ranked faculty 73% vs. people not at Leiter-ranked institutions (presumably mostly faculty) 75% vs. students at Leiter-ranked institutions 81% (chi-square p = .11; Leiter-ranked faculty vs. students, p = .03).
* There was a marginally significant trend for speakers and commentators to have been more likely to have paid their fees than people whose only role was chairing: 76% vs. 71% (p = .097).
Ethicists differed from non-ethicists in several dimensions.
* 33% of ethicists were women vs. 18% of non-ethicists (p < .001).
* 63% of participants whose only appearance was on the group program were ethicists vs. 42% of participants who appeared on the main program (p < .001).
* Looking only at the main program, 35% of participants whose highest level of participation was in a colloquium session were ethicists vs. 49% whose highest level of participation was in a non-colloquium session (p < .001). (I considered speaking as a higher level of participation than commenting and commenting as a higher level of participation than chairing.)
* Among faculty in Leiter-ranked departments, a smaller percentage were ethicists (38%) than among participants who were not Leiter-ranked faculty (49%, p < .001). (I've found similar results in another study too.)
I addressed these potential confounds in two ways.
First, I ran split analyses. For example, I looked only at main program participants to see if ethicists were more likely to have registered than were non-ethicists (they weren't: 77% vs. 77%, p = .90), and I did the same for participants who were only in group sessions (also no difference: 65% vs. 64%, p = .95). No split analysis revealed a significant difference between ethicists and non-ethicists.
Second, I ran logistic regressions, using the following dummy variables as predictors: ethicist, group program participant, colloquium participant, student at Leiter-ranked institution, chair. In one regression, those were the only predictors. In a second regression, each variable was crossed as an "interaction variable" with ethicist. No interaction variable was significant. In the non-interaction regression, colloquium role and main program participation were both positively predictive of having registered (p < .01) and participation only as chair was negatively predictive (p < .01). Being a student at a Leiter-ranked institution was not predictive (p = .18) and -- most importantly for my analysis -- being an ethicist was also not predictive (logistic beta = .04, p = .72), confirming the main result of the non-regression analysis.
[Thanks to the Pacific Division of the American Philosophical Association for providing access to their data, anonymously encoded, on my request. However, this research was neither solicited by nor conducted on behalf of the APA or the Pacific Division.]
[Comments are now closed. See the Splintered Mind post for continuing comments.]