Four new economics journals

Mario Rizzo directs my attention to Andrew Oswald’s 2007 paper (Economica) "An Examination of the Reliability of Prestigious Scholarly Journals: Evidence and Implications for Decision-Makers", here is the abstract: 

Scientific-funding bodies are increasingly under pressure to use journal rankings to measure research quality.  Hiring and promotion committees routinely hear an equivalent argument: ‘this is important work because it is to be published in prestigious journal X’.  But how persuasive is such an argument?  This paper examines data on citations to articles published 25 years ago.  It finds that it is better to write the best article published in an issue of a medium quality journal such as the OBES than all four of the worst four articles published in an issue of an elite journal like the AER.  Decision-makers need to understand this.

Comments

It's not clear, in these days of home pages and search engines, that refereed journals serve any purpose. Your peers will review your papers published on your web page, and if they find them worthwhile, they will link to them. More highly-regarded papers will receive more links, and will appear higher in search engine ranking.

While Tyler makes reasonable criticisms, the history of academic activity is one of increasing specialization - indeed that is the core dynamic of modernization.

I edit an apparently 'unspecialized' journal called Medical Hypotheses which covers the whole of medical science, but in reality it specializes in speculative theories.

In other words - I think specialization is inevitable and mostly beneficial, and many of its disadvantages can be mitigated by the evolution of new kinds of specialization.

Maybe economics needs 'Economic Hypotheses' to cover some of the ground missed-out by the new type of disciplinary specialization Tyler describes?

Face up to reality. Without journals how are you going to decide who gets tenure? Publishing now is not much about publicizing now; it's more about establishing.

I agree with you.Overspecialisation is too bad.

I am really happy about the link to Oswald's paper. It is a bit annoying to see that what should have been an imperfect signal, publishing in a prestigious journal, has become the goal per se.

Otherwise, i see the point of peer-review journals. It is a guarantee that the said article meets some requirements for rigour and accuracy. As a beginner, i had difficulties expressing opinions about the quality of my sources.

Let the market work, man. If you don't like these journals don't send your stuff there and don't read them.

PJ,

Are you labeling as "retro" the sub-field "comparative economic systems,"
presumably on the grounds that it no longer exists since the collapse of
the Soviet Union, or because you do not think it fits with macroeconomics?
I think it got lumped with macroeconomics because it is a field of
interest to the editor of that specific journal, Olivier Blanchard.

Frank,

You are right. These new journals are in addition to the AER, not in
place of it.

More generally,

The motivation for all this is annoyance by many at the high prices of
some of the commercially published journals, especially those by Elsevier.
Elsevier made its original play by starting a bunch of very specialized
journals that became very "successful," both commercially and in the
scholarly sense of getting papers in them cited a lot and therefore
becoming "highly ranked" and all that. I have it on good information
that anger in particular by leading members of the committee that
brought these new journals into being was specifically directed at
Elsevier's Journal of Econometrics and Journal of Public Finance, both
now very prestigious, if not quite as much so as the old Big Four,
AER, JPE, QJE, and Econometrica (with the Economic Journal a sometime
fifth wheel on that). The original push was to have the AEA publish
outright competitors to those specific journals, with the big cheeses
on the committee wanting that. But, in the end, what has come out is
a compromise, with these weird hodge podges of agglomerations of
sub-areas put into each of these journals.

Another motive is that the last time the AEA started a new journal it
was very quickly a smashing huge success, the Journal of Economic
Perspectives. I am probably biased as I edit an Elsevier journal,
but frankly I forecast that while it is likely that these journals, or
some of them, will do quite well, they are not going to replicate
the success of the JEP. It filled an empty niche. These journals are
trying to fill niches that do not exist very clearly.

While we are at it, one new venture that has really flopped has been
the Berkeley Electronic Press. They probably would have done well if
they had kept their introduction of new journals to the first two or
three that they introduced, their micro and macro theory journals, with
one or two others looking good (especially the one on Capital and Society,
or whatever it is called, the one Ned Phelps edits). But they have
destroyed the credibility of their products by promising to publish
papers sent to them in whatever of these journals seems suitable.
They have over supplied, although I gather that they are doing all right
commercially, so my remarks are directed at their scholarly reputation.

If anyone objects to this last characterization, I am speaking as
a journal editor who sees two new papers a day and looks at their
Reference lists. Except for the BPE micro theory journal, simply
nobody is citing anything published in any of these journals, period,
not that comes across my desk anyway.

Another issue that is floating around out there is whether or not
the Econometric Society will imitate the AEA in this business. For
quite similar reasons there is a push to add a theory and an applied
journal to Econometrica as journals put out by the Econometric Society.
A new, online theory journal has been started, Theoretical Economics,
which appears to be of very high quality (I already see papers citing
stuff out of it, and it is barely a year old). There has been talk
of it becoming this additional new journal of the Econometric Society.
But, last I have heard, all that is very much up in the air, at least
partly because they have not figured out what the second journal would
be. Also, I think some are worrying about what both BPE and AEA have
done. There may be a "let's wait and see what happens with these new
AEA journals before sticking our necks also" attitude at the
Econometric Society right now.

In any case, everyone should understand that these new AEA journals
are the products of a committee, and the result of a compromise at
that. I know that some involved in the process are very frustrated
and very disappointed at the outcome. In this regard, I am in
sympathy with Tyler on this one, and do not expect any of these
journals to do as well as the previously existing AEA journals,
the AER, the JEL, and the JEP. Not at all clear that they are
needed, and in the end they will just water down the AEA brand label.

@ Barkley,

Two clarifications: "But they [BEP] have destroyed the credibility of their products by promising to publish papers sent to them in whatever of these journals seems suitable." This appears to say that BEP *will* publish your paper somewhere. That's not true -- they can publish your paper in a more or less-selective journals IF it is better than the minimum standard.

"A new, online theory journal has been started, Theoretical Economics, which appears to be of very high quality ... becoming new journal of the Econometric Society." TE was started by top notch economists who disliked the Elsevier model. The journal is free to readers on the web, available at about $100-150/year to libraries (bound). The founders put their papers where their ideas were and got a good reputation going.

And now some opinion: it makes sense that AER would offer more journals. There are over 700 economics journals these days and not so many with a good reputation. AER is extended its franchise (and page count) to maintain share in an expanding market. The pity will be if some of its journals weaken better, less-reputatable (perhaps under capitalized) journals to the point of exit. There's a fine line between maintaining tradition, advancing business interests and doing what's best for the profession. Although AEA need not adhere to the first, the second seems to be dominating the third. (whew -- that was windy...)

BTW, just for the record, while I do not think these new journals are
all that greate of an idea, I wish them well. I know some of the editors,
and I do think, as already said, that they will do much better than the
BEP journals, although probably not as well as the existing AEA journals.
But, well, I guess we shall see.

Specialization is not a problem. Being too academic is not a problem either. But if academics will spend hours doing research on minutiae on subfields that are not applicable and beneficial then it defeats the fundamental purpose of research! Let face it – publish or perish – forces academics to publish in their own small infinitesimal domains often quite arbitrary and random stuff. The peers for review are few in there and “scratching each other’s back† is common. Knowledge does not exist in water tight compartments and hence there does not seem enough justification to keep breaking the field. There should be a place for broader perspectives which can be just as rigorous as the specialists. It would be tough to formulate a strategy, for instance, on public policy that does not look into Macroeconomic perspectives. The overlap is inevitable and this normally has personal and financial motives rather than dissemination of knowledge.

Also true, Journals are increasingly becoming redundant in the technology area. What remains, is the prestige of “acceptance† into a top-rated journal – helpful for individual aspirations and consulting assignments.

thank you very much for this article

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