The way it works now is you write a paper then you send it to a journal and they review it and decide whether to publish it. The basic unit is the paper. What if we made the author the basic unit? Instead of inviting submissions, Econometrica invites applications for the position of author. Some number of authors are accepted and they can write whatever they want and have it published in Econometrica. The term would be temporary, maybe 1 year.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just write the paper you want to write, not the paper that the referees want you to write? The quality of papers would unambiguously increase. After all, your acceptance is a done deal, anything you write will be published, why bother writing anything less than the most interesting idea that is currently on your mind.
Quality control is achieved by rotating in the authors currently writing the most interesting stuff. Once the current slate of authors is chosen, there is no need anymore for referees or editors. But if you want peer review, you can have that too. Anyone wishing to prepare a referee report is invited to do so, they can even do it anonymously if they want and even make it open to the public. The journal might even want to append the reports onto the published paper.
Come to think of it, these journals already exist: blogs…
I feel like the young economist bloggers of the world need some advice, but I don’t have the stature, experience, or age to give it.
Working for a consulting company I’m fairly detached from the academic world, but we are staffed with PhD economists and we do hire grad students. When I read stuff that, for instance, REDACTED writes, in the tone that he writes it, I know that at my company if he were a potential hire we would a) Google him, and b) this would hurt his chances. This isn’t about political leanings either. My liberal colleagues would look at his writings with the same distaste and worry that my conservative colleagues would.
Is this the same way it is in academia? Should young economist (and other academic) bloggers be more careful than many seem to be? Are they hurting their job market chances? Because that is my impression.
That is another reason for polite discourse, namely that it improves the career prospects and quality of one’s readers and followers. The best reason, however, is still that it improves one’s own thought processes and that is a point of substance not just style or manners. I’ve seen that point ignored a lot in the commentary of the last few weeks but not once seriously disputed.
1. College has been oversold. It’s hard to explain which posts go viral but this post, based on material from my e-book Launching the Innovation Renaissance, was a monster generating over 500 comments, 3000 likes and 800 tweets. The follow-up on puppeteerring in a wintry economic climate was also popular although not in the top ten.
2. Teacher’s Don’t Like Creative Students. Another monster with fewer page views than #1 but over 3000 likes and nearly 4000 tweets!
4. Be Safe Break the Law, on the 55mph speed limit.
5. Possible progress in medicine, a link-post from Tyler noting a new drug that can kill many viruses.
6. What is quirky about the United States? A question from Tyler that generated many comments.
7. The Mexican Mafia another of mine that went viral with links from Time, Instapundit and Reddit.
8. World Income Equality a graph showing how poor Americans are richer than rich Indians.
9. Explaining France, a post from Tyler explaining, well you know.
10. Common mistakes of right wing and market economists, a nice meaty post from Tyler, just a little bit more popular than Common mistakes of left-wing economists.
A few other notable posts in the top 25 were my posts on cities, India’s Voluntary City and Cities as Hotels, Tyler’s post on the S&P downgrade, my post on The Fruits of Immigration, which was mostly just quotations but I worked hard on the final line which many people then linked to, and my post on The Great Male Stagnation.
Several posts from previous years continued to be popular. What Happened to M. Night Shyamalan? from 2010 was again popular this year probably because Slate expanded the idea into a feature called Hollywood’s Career-O-Matic.
The importance of writing a good title is shown by Tyler’s 2007 posts Why did the Soviet Union fall? and How many children should you have? neither of which generated many comments but both of which show up early in Google searches of precisely these questions. My 2008 post What is New Trade Theory? on Krugman’s Nobel may also continue to attract attention for this reason.
2012 here we come!
PS. Congratulations to Matt Yglesias on his new gig. He’s arguably the best progressive economist in the blogosphere, which isn’t bad given that he’s not an economist. I said “arguably” because Krugman’s a more talented macroeconomist. But Yglesias can address a much wider variety of policy issues in a very persuasive fashion. So he’s certainly in the top 5. His blog is the best argument for progressive policy that I’ve ever read. (But not quite persuasive enough to convince me.)
Scott writes more, on the euro.
The author is Tanni Haas and the subtitle is The World’s Political Bloggers Share the Secrets to Success. There are interviews with Arianna Huffington, Jane Hamsher, Nick Gillespie, Lew Rockwell, Juan Cole, Matt Yglesias, Kevin Drum, yours truly, and others. Here is a comment from Kevin Drum:
When I started out, there was much more of a tendency to engage with the other side. Liberals and conservatives would attack each other, but we’d also engage with each other in at least a moderately serious way. Today, you get almost none of that. There’s very little engagement between left and right. And what engagement there is tends to be pure attack. There’s no real conversation at all. That’s a difference that I think professionalization has brought about. The political blogosphere has become more tribal.
A good point, but I blame professionalization less than Kevin does. Maybe some of us are simply a bit sick of each other, and the accumulated slights and misunderstandings weigh more heavily on our emotional responses than does the feeling of generosity from working together in the same “office.” I predict that a given experienced blogger is likely to feel more sympathy for new bloggers, but on average I doubt if the new bloggers are better or more tolerant.
Which means we mostly have ourselves to blame.
Addendum: Nick Gillespie comments.
Shane Greenstein writes to me:
This email is to alert you to a new blog project established by myself, Joshua Gans and Erik Brynjolffsson — www.digitopoly.org. We noticed that while there was plenty of commentary on technical issues there was, in fact, no blog exclusively devoted to the economics of the digital world. As we three blogged regularly about these, we decided to combine our efforts in this new forum. In addition to the new site we also have a Twitter feed @digitopoly.
Annie Lowrey reports:
Shipping is free and expedited, and it is described as a “once in a lifetime” offer.
Again from the World Bank, here is a study of that question, with the blog in question being Development Impact. Summary excerpt:
There are large impacts on dissemination of research; significant benefits in terms of the bloggers becoming better known and more respected within the profession; positive spillover effects for the bloggers’ institutions; and some evidence from our experiment that they may influence attitudes and knowledge among their readers. Blogs potentially have many impacts, and we are only measuring some of them, but the evidence we have suggests economics blogs are playing an important role in the profession.
From David McKenzie, there are more quantitative results:
In all three columns we see that, conditional on their RePEc rank, regular blogging is strongly and significantly associated with being more likely to be viewed as a favorite economist. Blogging has the same size impact as being in the top 50 of RePEc rankings for the under 60 economists, and a larger impact for the over 60 economists.
You will find the details and regressions at the link. One obvious question, of course, is how the average returns relate to the marginal returns. If David’s numbers reflect the reality, and I believe they do, why do not more economists blog? I believe it is because they can’t, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly, even if they are smart and very good economists. It’s simply a different set of skills. The underlying cognitive model here still needs to be worked out, but it is not a story of smooth continuity.
By the way, do note his plea at the end:
We would love to hear from readers, bloggers, and policy makers of other examples where blog posts have changed policy – particularly cases which have involved economic analysis, rather than just reporting.