Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Long and Variable Lags

are a problem not just in monetary policy, but also for academic economists trying to get research published. The editorial process at a journal can take a really long time, and since rejection rates are high, its often years before a completed paper becomes a publication. My impression (with no real evidence) is that economics is particularly bad in this regard (and unfortunately, what the Fresh Prince once said of parents can also be true of deans: they just don't understand). So I was very interested in the following, from an e-mail I received today announcing R. Preston McAfee as the new editor of Economic Inquiry:
Editor's Announcement: No Revisions Option
Journal time to publication lags have become embarrassing. Many authors have 5 year submission-to-print stories. More insidious, in my view, is the gradual morphing of the referees from evaluators to anonymous co-authors. Referees request increasingly extensive revisions. Usually these represent improvements, but the process takes a lot of time and effort, and the end result is often worse owing to its committee-design. Authors, knowing referees will make them rewrite the paper, are sometimes sloppy with the submission. This feedback loop - submitting a sloppy paper since referees will require rewriting combined with a need to fix all the sloppiness - has led to our current misery. Moreover, the expectation that referees will rewrite papers, combined with sloppy submissions, makes refereeing extraordinarily unpleasant. We - the efficiency-obsessed academic discipline - have the least efficient publication process.

The system is broken.

Consequently, Economic Inquiry is starting an experiment. In this experiment, an author can submit under a 'no revisions' policy. This policy means exactly what it says: if you submit under no revisions, I (or the co-editor) will either accept or reject. What will not happen is a request for a revision.
Update: On a related note, via Dani Rodrik, apparently at Harvard they don't need no stinking journals.

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