Tale of a published article

From Joshua Gans:

But people are wrong on the Internet all of the time. So what really annoyed me was how Cowen ended the post:

“This counterintuitive conclusion is one reason why we have economic models.”

…Now where did all that lead? Frustrated by the blog debate, I decided to write a proper academic paper. That took a little time. In the review process, the reviewers had great suggestions and the work expanded. To follow through on them I had a student, Vivienne Groves, help work on some extensions and she did such a great job she became a co-author on the paper. The paper was accepted and today was published in the Journal of Economics and Management Strategy; almost 5 years after Tyler Cowen’s initial post. And the conclusion: everyone in the blog debate was a little right but also wrong in the blanket conclusions (including myself).

The rest of the story is here.  Stephen Williamson serves up a different attitude, and here is Paul Krugman’s very good post on open science and the internet.

Comments

Wait, so a blog debate ended with someone taking the time to write an academic paper about it? Score another for the blogosphere.

And the counterfactual? How many academic papers have not gotten written because the authors were "wasting" time on blog debates. New formats will always perform poorly on old metrics, but we got one data point. Yippee.

"Wasting time" is often an oversimplified and incorrect characterization.

On blogs where the readership is erudite (think this one and Concurring Opinions, two of my favorites), the "debates" that ensue from interesting and/or controversial posts are often enlightening to the debaters on both (or all) sides. I am firm, you are stubborn, and he is pig-headed, but perhaps all three of us are smart enough to learn something new.

Ken, note the quotes on wasting...I am speaking from my own experience. And yet, there is only so much time in the day. One hour spent here is one hour not spent on my research or writing referee reports about other people's research. As blogs work now, this is intellectual entertainment. Nothing wrong with that. I am fine trading my TV time for MR, but I should not trade my research time.

Claudia you're sounding a bit weary today! I know, I need to just 'step away from the Internet' and work on my essays, too. But because of the Internet, those essays will sound a lot more like the real world than they would have.

Becky yes, I am behind on some deadlines which makes me grumpy and this site is more fun...research is hard work. (Not too worry, my yoga class perked my mood.) I would still push bloggers and their followers to make this medium better...not just re-create all the old school inefficiencies in a new format. Blogs (or some social media forum) will be an important research tool, but they not there yet IMHO.

...oh and I almost forgot, damn the torpedoes!

The Krugman post is very good indeed. Very likely the point extends to other disciplines as well, e.g., engineering--except that the blogosphere is much less active there. Double-blind reviews anyone?

"The Krugman post is very good indeed."

+1, Or, Who are you and what did you do with the real Dr Krugman?

What are the standards in academic economics for including a student as a coauthor? In my experience in engineering and applied math, students who do any work at all on the material that goes into the paper get to be coauthors. I don't really understand how the threshold could be higher. It seems pretty dishonest otherwise.

In economics they have to provide part of the original ideas and such. It isn't enough for them to grind away on a dataset.

Sucks to be an econ grad student, then. I know that different disciplines have different standards, but I'd say this this borders on the dishonest.

In others, such as mine, your advisor can provide crappy ideas that you churn on for years until doing your own thing because it will work, and he has no idea what you are doing but still gets his name there.

Yeah, but that can happen in any field. Choosing the right advisor is a hard problem, and one has to be willing to stand up to them in the face of lousy ideas.

Publish or Perish..... Blog to cut through the fog.

"To follow through on them I had a student, Vivienne Groves, help work on some extensions and she did such a great job she became a co-author on the paper." Does this mean that if her efforts had been merely good rather than great he would have denied her that credit? What a louse.

He sounds a lot better than my baseline assumption.

If you do a good job atabout job (sound hers was a research assistant job), you get paid (and given credit as an RA). If you do a great job, you get promoted (to coauthor). Seems pretty straightforward to me.

Try again... "atabout" was supposed to be "at your"

The problem is the currency of academia, credit, of which only authorship matters, has such a high threshold. Science requires so much division of labor that I am skeptical of any article that has a single author. Two authors is assumed to be a student (who provides the labor) and the advisor (who provides the capital). More authors did some nominal amount of work. My impression of non-capital-intensive fields is that it would be very easy, especially if a paper requires more years than the nominal PhD duration from idea to publication, to push out secondary authors, especially if noone looks askance at single authorship. Why dilute credit if you don't have to? Then, if students get wind of this, there is a lot less division of labor if they react rationally.

In economics they have to provide part of the original ideas and such. It isn’t enough for them to grind away on a dataset.

In physics, the rule of thumb is 10% of the work makes you a coauthor. An even easier rule of thumb is that if your work is an essential part of the paper as it appears, you are a coauthor.

I've often thought that the humanities approach to coauthorship borders on plagiarism. "Grinding away at the data set" is in fact the substance and content of many papers. If you're the one doing the grinding, you are the author of the original work.

"I’ve often thought that the humanities approach to coauthorship borders on plagiarism. “Grinding away at the data set” is in fact the substance and content of many papers. If you’re the one doing the grinding, you are the author of the original work."

I guess there's a difference in belief on whether the 'data set' is critical. If you desire a conclusion and have someone else select the 'appropriate' data set then they haven't necessarily done anything note worthy.

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