The summer 2016 Health Economists’ Study Group (HESG) meeting took place in Gran Canaria, Spain from the 21st to the 23rd of June. Three members of our group attended the conference and this short blog post describes the experience of two of them: Julija Stoniute (Research Assistant) & David Mott (PhD Student).
It was my first health economics conference and I must say it went far beyond my expectations. I was pleasantly surprised to see such a wide variety of delegates and it was very interesting to get an insight into how health economists work abroad. This also gave me a much wider understanding of the health economics field and its vast opportunities.
In terms of conference structure, HESG has a unique format whereby papers are circulated to delegates prior to the meeting and discussed in hour-long sessions using discussants in favour of author presentations. Nearly 60 papers were presented over multiple, simultaneously held sessions across the two-and-a-half day conference, therefore I unfortunately could not attend them all. Of those that I did attend, I was very impressed by the discussants’ presentations and their valuable feedback as well as by the lively discussions and audience engagement.
What is more, I was incredibly lucky to go to the conference with my two supervisors (David Mott and Jing Shen) and to have our paper presented. Our systematic review of the chained time trade-off method for valuing temporary health states was discussed by Logan Trenaman, a researcher from the University of British Columbia. He summarised the paper in a very clear and cohesive manner and gave us some valuable suggestions and feedback. The issue of valuing temporary states proved to be an important one and sparked a lively discussion amongst the audience. Engaging in the discussion and listening to different arguments and perspectives about our review was a very unique and helpful experience. Attending the HESG meeting has helped me become more confident, more interested in preference elicitation methodology and, most importantly, the discussion has already helped us improve our paper.
This was my fourth HESG meeting as a PhD student and the setting was fantastic. I was fortunate enough to have two papers accepted at the conference; the first was the paper that Julija described above and the second was a paper based on some preliminary results from my PhD project.
There are many benefits of having your work discussed at an HESG meeting such as: receiving detailed feedback from someone outside of your immediate academic circle, introducing your work to a wider audience whilst it’s still a “work in progress” and meeting people that are interested in your research area. In addition, from a PhD student’s perspective, the format of HESG really helps to ensure that you receive detailed feedback that could be useful when it comes to finalising your thesis and preparing for your viva.
The discussant of my PhD paper was Dr Victoria Serra-Sastre, a lecturer at City University London. Her discussion provided me with some very useful feedback and set up the session for a lively and very broad Q&A. I left HESG with some clear ideas as to how I could improve my analysis in the near future, as well as with the confidence that people are interested in my research area.
I also discussed a paper at the conference, which I highly recommend to any PhD students or early career researchers. Discussing a paper can be quite daunting, especially when you are relatively inexperienced, but I have found it to be very rewarding whenever I have done it. It is also vital that people volunteer to discuss papers for the meetings to be successful.
Overall, the range of topics and the number of high quality sessions at the conference was excellent, especially considering the temptation of the Canarian climate just outside. Organising a conference must be a stressful experience, but to organise one in another country must be even harder, so for that reason the organisers at UCL certainly have a lot to be proud of. It has definitely raised the bar for all HESG meetings in the future.