Barbara Biasi, Petra Moser, 26 May 2018

Copyrights grant publishers exclusive rights to content for almost a century. In science, this can involve substantial social costs by limiting who can access existing research. This column uses a unique WWII-era programme in the US, which allowed US publishers to reprint exact copies of German-owned science books, to explore how copyrights affect follow-on science. This artificial removal of copyright barriers led to a 25% decline in prices, and a 67% increase in citations. These results suggest that restrictive copyright policies slow down the progress of science considerably.

Alessandro Iaria, Carlo Schwarz, Fabian Waldinger, 26 January 2018

Access to existing knowledge fuels basic scientific progress and is key to the development of new technologies. This column studies how the decline in scientific cooperation that occurred during and after WWI affected science and innovation. The interruption of international knowledge flows led to stark declines in both the volume and quality of scientific production. This points to the merits of opening up access to scientific journals and of discerning what constitutes frontier research.

Josh Angrist, Pierre Azoulay, Glenn Ellison, Ryan Hill, Susan Feng Lu, 17 November 2017

Economics, and economists, are often accused of insularity and hubris, and of talking primarily to themselves in their research. This column uses a recent analysis of citations to and from other disciplines to show that this is no longer the case. Economics papers increasingly cite non-economic research, and other disciplines cite economists more often too. The data suggest that the rising quantity and quality of empirical research in economics has increased the relevance of the field to non-economists.

Sebastian Galiani, Ramiro Gálvez, 10 June 2017

Researchers are evaluated using citation counts, often with a cut-off date. But this column shows that the lifecycle of citations differs between disciplines, with some subjects having earlier peaks or steeper declines in annual citations than others. These differences should be taken into account when evaluating researchers or institutions.

Martin Watzinger, Thomas Fackler, Markus Nagler, Monika Schnitzer, 19 February 2017

There is growing concern that dominant companies use patents strategically to keep competitors from entering their market. This column uses the landmark 1956 Consent Decree against Bell Labs to explore whether antitrust enforcement is an effective remedy to the problem. Results show that patents can indeed be used as an entry barrier for start-up firms, and that the compulsory licensing of patents can foster market entry and innovation. However, compulsory licensing is found to be ineffective in markets where dominant firms have other means of market foreclosure.

Daron Acemoğlu, Ufuk Akcigit, William Kerr, 20 January 2017

Innovation is typically seen as a cumulative process, with new technologies building on existing knowledge - but our knowledge of how progress in a specific area is influenced by knowledge in other, ‘upstream’ areas is limited. Using US patent data, this column identifies a stable ‘innovation network’ that serves as a conduit for cumulative knowledge development. Technological advances in one field can advance progress in multiple neighbouring fields, but will have a stronger influence on more closely related areas.

Debraj Ray, Arthur Robson, 30 October 2016

Alphabetical order is in many ways a good arrangement, but if your name begins with a letter that is early in the alphabet, it gives you significant and unwarranted advantages. This column – whose authors both have surnames starting with R, one of whom was once recommended a “wonderful paper” on which he was a co-author – proposes a new mechanism for co-authorship. It involves a coin toss to order co-authors, and an institutionally ratified symbol to signal random order. Such a mechanism would be fairer and more efficient, and it would displace alphabetical order through voluntary participation alone.
 

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.

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.

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.

David Laband, 11 September 2013

Are citations the best way to assess a scientific researcher’s worth? This column argues that although citation counts are easy to quantify and broadly indicative, they ultimately provide limited information and should only be used with a healthy dose of caution and common sense. At stake is the distribution of enormously important scientific resources, both public and private.

Patrick Gaulé, Nicolas Maystre, 23 June 2009

Are freely availably scientific papers better disseminated? Many believe so, but this column presents new evidence suggesting that the higher number of citations received by open access papers is mostly due to a difference in quality. Nevertheless, there is a problem of access to the scientific literature in developing countries that needs to be addressed.

Joshua Aizenman, Kenneth Kletzer, 29 April 2008

Academic citations are a popular measure of research output, but they also serve strategic and social functions. This column examines the importance of scholars promoting their own research by surveying the citation counts of prominent economists who passed away prematurely.

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