QOTD: Top economists publish less in reviewed journals?

MIT economist Glen Ellison writes:

I started this paper by pointing out two trends: economists in several highly-regarded departments are publishing fewer papers in the top field journals; and Harvard’s economics department is also publishing fewer papers in the top general interest journals.

Several pieces of evidence bolster the view that one factor contributing to these trends is that the role of journals in disseminating research has been reduced. One is that the citation benefit to publishing in a top general-interest journal now appears to be fairly small for top-department authors. Another is that Harvard authors appear to be quite successful in garnering citations to papers that are not published in top journals. The fact that the publication declines appear to be a top-department phenomenon (as opposed to a prolific-author phenomenon) suggests that a top-department affiliation may be an important determinant of an author’s ability to sidestep the traditional journal system. [Is peer review in decline? pdf]

Ellison argues that journals have two roles: dissemination and quality certification. The dissemination role of the journal is generally less important in our current network environment. And, for the authors discussed here, reputation and departmental affiliation may reduce the incentive to seek the quality certification.
Does this suggest anything in relation to institutional repository discussions?

3 thoughts on “QOTD: Top economists publish less in reviewed journals?”

  1. Well, economists have a long-established distributed subject repository service (Repec), and MIT has an institutional repository, so I thought it would be worth looking up Glenn Ellison in both.

    He has 2 records in the DSpace at MIT repository (see here ), one for a paper from 1992 and one from a paper in December 2001. In Repec (see here ), we find 22 working papers and 23 articles, some of which also appear as working papers. In both cases the search facility was not very good, but doing an author browse led me to the results above.
    It would seem logical from your post that he would want to be found via a repository that connects to his institution (assuming that the prestige of his department is connected to his institution). But instead he seems to want to be found by economists using their own tool, which does not make a big deal of his affiliation (although it doesn’t hide it). So it looks as if the “topness” of employing department as a quality of an author may just be one of those things that “everyone knows”. Well, everyone who counts in economics, anyway!

  2. It may, but let’s be careful: that some material isn’t going into journals is a long way from saying it IS going into IRs.
    My hunch is it’s mostly going into SSRN and RePEc, though the article focuses so heavily on journals it doesn’t even begin to address this question.
    And my suggestion is that IR developers work on simple-submit tools that place material both in the IR and in the disciplinary repository (or repositories) of choice.

  3. Further to my comment, I am sorry that I forgot that Repec is more or less a search facility over departmental repositories (working paper collections). So repec points to Ellison’s entry at MIT economics department, where 27 papers appear in his collection.

    I guess this negates my final paragraph! It does support the idea that a “network effect” across local specialist repositories might be a way forward. Pity that network effect can’t work for MIT’s DSpace collection as well!

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