Systematic assessments of the research performance of academic institutions are increasingly common around the world. A key question for the design of such systems is whether and how bibliometrics should be incorporated. This column argues that bibliometrics can perform well at identifying quality in some fields, while providing cost-effective and transparent review. Peer review is found to be no guarantor of quality, though it may be essential in the evaluation of certain fields.
Pierre Régibeau, Katharine Rockett, 13 October 2016
Christian Catalini, Christian Fons-Rosen, Patrick Gaulé, 16 July 2016
Scientific research is increasingly the product of collaborations between researchers. One driver of this trend over the last half century has been falling communication costs. This column uses data on faculty members of chemistry departments in the US to explore whether the reduction in air travel costs over the last three decades has had a similar effect on scientific collaboration. The introduction of a low-cost carrier route is associated with a 50% increase in collaborations between researchers.
Ali Önder, Hakan Yilmazkuday, 04 June 2016
North American economics departments produce a substantial amount of economics PhDs, and these PhDs are responsible for a disproportionately large share of research published in top academic journals. This column provides an overview of 35 years of peer-reviewed publications by North American economics PhDs. Since 1980, the size of author teams grown and female representation steadily improved. The shares of the major research fields show relatively little variation, though international economics, development economics, and finance are exceptions to this.
Co-Pierre Georg, Michael E. Rose, 16 January 2016
Informal collaboration is an integral part of academia. Studies of academic collaboration have mostly focused on formal collaboration, as measured by co-authorships. This column instead constructs a network of informal collaboration in financial economics, exploiting acknowledgements of assistance appearing in published papers. Three rankings of financial economists are constructed based on acknowledgement occurrence and centrality. Being helpful is not found to predict centrality in the informal collaboration network.
Jay Bhattacharya, Mikko Packalen, 09 November 2015
Academics get ahead in part due to how often their papers are cited. This column argues that the pressure to publish research that garners a lot of citations stifles scientific progress by discouraging exploration. But in the absence of a plausible alternative for measuring the novelty of scientific publications, citation-based measures have persisted. This column presents a new way to rank scientific journals based on novelty as opposed to impact, which could encourage scientists to pursue more innovative work.
Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Saez, László Sándor, 11 August 2014
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.
Graziella Bertocchi, Alfonso Gambardella, Tullio Jappelli, Carmela Nappi, Franco Peracchi, 28 July 2014
Assessing the quality of academic research is important – particularly in countries where universities receive most of their funding from the government. This column presents evidence from an Italian research assessment exercise. Bibliometric analysis – based on the journal in which a paper was published and its number of citations – produced very similar evaluations of research quality to informed peer review. Since bibliometric analysis is less costly, it can be used to monitor research on a more continuous basis and to predict the outcome of future peer-reviewed assessments.
Wendy Carlin, 20 May 2014
Wendy Carlin talks to Viv Davies about the 'Curriculum Open-access Resources in Economics' (CORE) project, which was established by the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) at Oxford and proposes a new approach to economics teaching for undergraduates. The aim is to update the existing economics curriculum so that it reflects recent developments in economics, the economy and in teaching methods. They discuss the 'three gaps' in economics teaching that the project seeks to close. The interview was recorded in April 2014 at the annual conference of the Royal Economic Society.
Diane Coyle, 04 May 2014
The undergraduate economics curriculum is hugely influential, since today’s undergraduates are tomorrow’s policymakers. The massive policy failures before and after the Global Crisis have thus prompted a rethink. This column argues that there is a reasonable degree of consensus on the need for curriculum reform, but no agreement on whether this means rejecting the basic building blocks of the subject. Nevertheless, undergraduate courses in five or ten years will almost surely have changed considerably in character.
Amanda Goodall, John McDowell, Larry Singell, 31 January 2014
Much of human knowledge is produced in the world’s university departments, yet little is known about how these hundreds of thousands of departments are best organised and led. This column explores the association between the personal research output of a department head and the department’s subsequent performance. Results suggest that if a department wants to improve its reputation in the world, then the chair should be a highly cited researcher.
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.
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.
John McCormack, Carol Propper, Sarah Smith, 07 November 2013
The conventional wisdom is that managing academics is futile. This column challenges this view by comparing management performance in UK universities with measures of research and teaching quality. Universities with better management have better performance. This holds for all types of universities, and the results are not driven by differences in resources. Recruitment, retention, and promotion are the most important aspects of management in universities, but management at the level of academic departments – not human resources departments – is what matters.
Daniel Hamermesh, 20 February 2013
Publishing in economics is a very tough game, especially for young scholars trying to establish a research record while on a tenure clock. This column discusses new research that shows the age profile of authors in top journals has distinctly shifted away from young scholars. In 1993, half the authors of top-level articles were under 35 and 90% were under 50. Today, only a third are under 35.
Victor Ginsburgh, 25 May 2012
Lead articles in academic journals tend to receive more citations than other articles. But does this mean they are any better? This column suggests that two-thirds of the additional citations that leading papers receive seem to be due to coming first in the journal, while only one-third are because they are genuinely better quality.
Natalia Zinovyeva, Manuel Bagues, 19 December 2010
Several countries have recently introduced gender quotas in hiring and promotion committees at universities. Evidence from promotions in the Spanish university system suggests that quotas are only effective at increasing the number of successful female applicants in promotions to top positions. This column argues that, given that sitting on committees reduces the available time for research, gender quotas should be implemented only for more senior academic positions.
Stuart Macdonald, 04 April 2010
Recent allegations that scientists at the Climate Research Unit have hidden and manipulated data has caused a media storm. This column argues that the practices alleged in “climategate” may be more common in academia than we think.