Frontiers of economic research

Klaus Desmet, Ignacio Ortuño-Ortin, Ömer Özak, Nick Obradovich, Ignacio Martín, Edmond Awad, Manuel Cebrían, Ruben Cuevas Rumin, Iyad Rahwan, Ángel Cuevas Rumin, 31 October 2020

By allowing us to peer into the lives of billions of people, social media has inadvertently created the world’s largest dataset for the measurement of culture. This column argues that by providing quantitative, scalable, high-resolution, and cost-effective measures of revealed cultural distances between populations, it has enormous potential to help social scientists answer some of society’s most pressing issues. These include the persistence of ethnic conflict, the growing fragmentation of society, and the fraying of the social fabric. Cultural distances are also essential to our understanding of trade, migration, and investment flows.

David Nguyen, Marta Paczos, 06 October 2020

As the amount and variety of data collected by companies has increased in recent decades, data have become an essential resource. This column sets out a framework for understanding how businesses monetise data – distinguishing between data-enabled businesses that would not exist without access to large amounts of data and analytics, and data-enhanced businesses that exploit data to coordinate pre-existing business operations better. Allowing the increasing use of data to act as an unmeasured input in production handicaps key economic statistics – from output to productivity and beyond. 

Elisabeth Kempf, Lubos Pastor, 05 October 2020

The effectiveness of central banks’ asset purchase programmes (‘quantitative easing’) has been a subject of intense debate in both academic and policy circles. Much of the analysis is conducted by the staff of central banks themselves, which is not unlike pharmaceutical firms evaluating their own drugs. Indeed, as this column shows, papers by central bank researchers in the US, the UK, and the euro area report systematically larger effects of unconventional monetary policy on output and inflation than papers by independent academics. This is not to argue that central bank research should be discounted or to question its credibility – but it does highlight a previously unexplored conflict of interest.

Sebastian Galiani, Ugo Panizza, 28 September 2020

Academic economists need to be published, but is the journal system fair and efficient? Sebastian Galiani and Ugo Panizza tell Tim Phillips about a new free VoxEU ebook that tackles racism in publishing, whether you should be judged by your citations, and the tyranny of the top five. 

Download the eBook free from VoxEU here

Sebastian Galiani, Ugo Panizza, 28 September 2020

The publication process in economics is characterised by long publication lags and excessive weight given to a very small number of journals, while the profession itself is seen by many as hierarchical, clubby and characterised by gender and racial biases. This column introduces an eBook which takes stock of these issues with a series of short essays focusing on how economists publish their research and measure academic success. While there is much to be proud of about the state of the economics profession, the chapters in the eBook suggest there is still work to be done to make economics more open and inclusive and the publication process fairer and more efficient.

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