Peer review is at the heart of academic economics, but there are few professional rewards for submitting detailed referee reports on time. This column reports the results from an experimental study of referee motivation. Shorter deadlines ‘nudged’ referees to submit reports earlier. Cash incentives also reduced turnaround times, suggesting that any ‘crowding out’ of intrinsic motivation is small. Social incentives – publication of turnaround times – were more effective for tenured referees than shorter deadlines or cash incentives.
Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Saez, László Sándor, 11 August 2014
John Gibson, 06 June 2014
Common understanding among academic economists is that ‘top five’ publications are qualitatively more valuable than lesser ones. This column presents recent research showing the effect of top publications (versus others) on salaries in the University of California system. Publications in prestigious journals have similar effects on salaries compared to other publications, with one notable exception.
Jishnu Das, Quy-Toan Do, 11 February 2014
The world has globalised massively yet some worry that academic publication has not. This column provides new evidence from 76,046 papers published during 1985-2004 in the top 202 economics journals. It shows that GDP per capita accounts for 75% of the variation in the country-focus of publications, suggesting the overrepresentation of the US is not an anomaly. Yet a closer look at top-five journals reveals a US bias that cannot be explained by data or researcher quality.
Stan Liebowitz, 06 December 2013
Academic economists – especially in the US – are continuously evaluated, with salaries and promotions hanging on outcomes. This column argues that the methods – identified from a survey of economics department chairs – are likely to reduce the amount of research created, perpetuate inefficiently sized research teams, promote false authorship, and penalise honest researchers. They also provide departments with excessive leeway to engage in potentially capricious behaviour.
John Hudson, 11 November 2013
Academics are subject to new types of evaluations. In the UK this is done via the Research Excellence Framework (REF). This column discusses some of the shortcomings of the REF and the methods individual papers are ranked. New evaluations and requirements change the incentives of economists and can affect their research – sometimes not for the better.
Daniel Sgroi, 11 November 2013
In the upcoming UK Research Excellence Framework, a small panel of academics are tasked with rating thousands of academic submissions, which will result in university departments being ranked and public money being distributed. Given the enormity of the task and the scarcity of the resources devoted to it, this article discusses a straightforward procedure that might help, based on exactly the Bayesian methods that academic economists study and teach when considering the problem of decision-making under uncertainty.
David Card, Stefano DellaVigna, 21 January 2013
'Publish or perish' has been the rule in academic economics since forever, but there is a widespread perception that publishing in the best journals has become harder and much slower. This column presents new evidence confirming the perception. The number of articles published in top journals has fallen, while the number and length of submissions have risen. The profession should consider recalibrating publication demands to reflect this new reality.