Policymakers use forecasting to attempt to assess the impact of major events, such as the recent Brexit vote, on the economy. While forecasting has improved dramatically in recent years, the models can still be greatly improved. This column discusses some of the limitations of forecasting models, and how policymakers can make their predictions more reliable. Key considerations are using more data to generate predictions, and using myriad models to eliminate individual misspecifications.
Graham Elliott, Allan Timmermann,
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.
Paul Hünermund, Georg Licht, 08 July 2016
European countries are increasingly coordinating their national research and development policies. However, supra-national R&D programmes entail problems from a governance standpoint. This column discusses the problem of cross-subsidisation between participating countries. European joint programming initiatives are usually designed to avoid international transfer payments. Empirical evidence suggests that doing so comes at the price of decreased efficiency.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Catherine Haeck, Frank Verboven, 17 June 2010
How does a university organise its hiring and promotion policy? This column presents evidence on the personnel policy of a large European university. It suggests that the university is organised as an internal labour market, and while promotion dynamics depend on research and teaching performance, persistent administrative rigidities remain.
Amanda Goodall, 02 January 2010
The best US universities outperform their European counterparts. This column says part of the gap is due to how universities choose leaders. Outstanding scholars are more likely to be selected as presidents in the top US universities, a move that is associated with improved research performance.
Annamaria Conti , Patrick Gaulé, 30 July 2009
European universities produce high-quality scientific research, but they licence it to industry far less than US universities. This column introduces new survey evidence on university licensing and assesses the gap between the US and Europe. It highlights European universities’ shortcomings in generating technology transfer revenue, despite their desire to do so.
Amar Bhidé, 20 February 2009
Amar Bhidé of Columbia University talks to Romesh Vaitilingam about his new book, The Venturesome Economy: How Innovation Sustains Prosperity in a More Connected World. He explains why know-how developed abroad enhances prosperity at home, and why trying to maintain the US lead by subsidising more research or training more scientists will do more harm than good. The interview was recorded in London in November 2008.
Bruno van Pottelsberghe de la Potterie, Gaétan de Rassenfosse, 01 June 2008
Patent-based measures of innovation are often accused of reflecting the propensity to patent rather than actual research productivity. This column presents a better measure of patenting that reflects research productivity and identifies policies that affect research productivity and the propensity to patent.
Keith Maskus, 15 August 2007
New research shows that visa policies that restrict foreign grad students in general, and favour those with greater financial resources, harm the research output of US science and engineering departments. American policy currently makes both of these mistakes, and needs fundamental reform.