While forestry issues and forest economists' interests are increasingly global, the costs of creating an international association have plummeted. These twinned trends suggest that the time is ripe to form an international association of forest economics.
Anecdotally, forest economists have expressed considerable interest in international debates and scholarly exchanges. This anecdotal evidence includes expressed interest in a series of informal conversations with forest economists from around the world, the success of international journals such as the Journal of Forest Economics, and the success of international conferences and meetings organized by ad hoc committees. This increasing interest in international activities appears to reflect on-going trends of increased international trade, standardization of forest economic approaches, and increased mobility of forest economists, many of whom are accepting positions outside of their native country or region.
Historically, the costs of organizing and sustaining an international association were extremely high. However, the improvement of communication technologies during the past two decades in the form of e-mail, the internet and fax machines have dramatically decreased the costs of many of the basic functions of an international association including interactions between members on scholarly issues, meeting and conference announcements, and members' direct participation in an international organization. These technological advances have been important to the success of the Journal of Forest Economics and to ad hoc organizing committees of international conferences and meetings. Associations can now be primarily virtual in the sense that the only non-electronic aspects of the organization are delivering paper copies of journals, and actual attendance at a conference and meeting.
Currently no organization effectively serves as an international organization of forest economics. Existing forest economics associations are regional or national by design. International forestry organizations such as IUFRO, EFI and CIFOR are generally not led by forest economists, are not designed to promote timely scholarly exchanges among forest economists, and usually are unable to change rapidly in response to the changing needs of forest economists.
Over the past few years at several meetings a number of forest economists have either discussed organizing an international association of forest economics or expressed strong interest in becoming a member of an international association of forest economics. The Journal of Forest Economics Editorial Board has expressed support of an international association with some members willing to assist the organizing effort. Other forest economists not associated with the Journal of Forest Economics have offered to help organize an association. Some of these forest economists have expressed particular interest in assisting with setting up internal communications for an international association, or organizing a conference under the auspices of an international association.
Although previous discussions and preliminary attempts at organizing have not successfully created an international association of forest economics, they have helped uncover strong interest in an international association. There is reason to be more optimistic about the current organizing effort. Probably the most important source of optimism is that it appears likely that IUFRO will now assist efforts to form an international organizational of forest economics by providing both organizing effort and financial resources.
A number of significant issues need to be resolved to form a viable international association of forest economics. These issues include:
Clarifying the benefits and responsibilities of membership in an international association.
Developing a mutually supportive relationship with both regional associations of forest economists, forest economics research centres and international forestry organizations.
Determining the range of activities that the international association will routinely address including internal and external communications, the possibility of association sponsored conferences or meetings, organization details and other possible activities.
Forming an international association of forest economics is both timely, and will enhance scholarship in forest economics. If you have interest in joining with others to form an international association of forest economics, I urge you to e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org, the current initial contact point for the organizing effort.