There are different kinds of academics: there are good networkers that schmooze their way into things. These are academics who are great believers in going to conferences.
Then there are people like me, who are terrible in most interpersonal situations, find conferences paralyzing, and who, to the degree we have an academic reputation at all, have it because we write things that interest people. I am always being shoved into going to conferences, and I really don’t know why.
ACSP allows us 15 minutes to give our papers. 15 minutes. Have you ever tried to deliver a theory paper in 15 minutes?
The year-by-year duty of going to conferences is a money free-for-all; few universities cover enough travel for more than one conference, so people wind up paying for a bunch of travel out of their own pockets (because networking! Community!) and young scholars, in particular, can’t really afford it. It’s all done to maintain the coffers of a credentialing organization.
Then there’s the year-to-year drag of presenting bits, which tempts people to present work that isn’t fully mature (and how would you know, based on your 15 minutes of air time.) You spend a lot of time in the shallows.
I wonder if having conferences less frequently would be a good idea. You wouldn’t be able to get through as many papers, which might actually be a good thing if we thought the process would cull in favor of fewer papers with greater quality and higher impact.
Of course, I say that being an established scholar would likely be able to get my papers in that club now, but not when I was a younger, unpopular scholar. (Now I’m an old, unpopular scholar.)