Call for papers. Chains of Value: How Intermediaries Evaluate Financial Instruments

September 26, 2016

University of Edinburgh, 4-5 May 2017

This international meeting will focus on a set of important, related issues:

  1. The role of intermediaries in financial markets.There are increasingly lengthy chains of intermediation between savers and the end-users of their savings, and a plausible hypothesis (to be explored at the meeting) is that intermediaries’ situations in those chains strongly shape what they do and the influence they have. Also of interest is the sheer cost of intermediation, highlighted by the recent findings by Thomas Philippon and Guillaume Bazot that the unit cost of financial intermediation has not declined (in the US since 1886, in Europe since 1950), despite the huge advances in finance’s key technology, computing.
  2. How market participants estimate the economic worth of the financial instruments that they trade.Valorisation and evaluation have become major topics in recent economic sociology and related fields, and at this meeting we will explore how this exciting new literature can best be extended to understand evaluation in finance.
  3. Machines as mediators or intermediaries within financial markets.For example, in many markets, most trades now pass through the ‘hands’ of machines, and there is now, for instance, a growing literature on high-frequency trading (HFT). How do machines perform their roles as mediators/intermediaries? How, for example, do HFT algorithms evaluate the financial instruments that they trade?

The meeting will be held in Edinburgh’s George Square, much of it in the top floor of the Chrystal Macmillan Building, with its panoramic views over the Pentland Hills and Edinburgh Castle. The meeting will open with a keynote address by the economist and financial commentator John Kay, author (for example) of Other People’s Money: Masters of the Universe or Servants of the People? (London: Profile, 2015). Keynotes on the second day will be given by Ann-Christina Lange (Copenhagen Business School) and Gregory Jackson (Free University of Berlin).

We encourage submissions on any of the above three topics, especially from early-career scholars (modest funds will be available to provide partial support for travel expenses for those who have no other source of funding). Although we welcome submissions from economists with sociological or political science interests, the meeting will primarily be focused on ‘social studies of finance’, the application to financial markets of wider social-science disciplines such as anthropology, gender studies, human geography, political economy, politics, science and technology studies and sociology.

Please send a summary (in no more than 300 words) of your intended contribution to the meeting organisers, Arjen van der Heide and Julius Kob ( by 15th December 2016. Say which of the meeting’s themes your paper will inform, and if it is an empirical paper please also make clear what material it is based on. Selection of papers will be by a little scientific committee (Lange, Jackson, Iain Hardie, Donald MacKenzie).

Financial support for this meeting comes from the European Research Council project EPIFM (Evaluation Practices in Financial Markets, GA291733).

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