Monday, March 7, 2011

Less is More (Sometimes)

 Less is More - Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Some of the most influential academic journals have very short (one-word) titles. To wit, Science, Nature, Physica, Biometrika, Geology, Circulation, Polyhedron, Endoscopy, Neuron, and Econometrica. Is there anything in particular that we should conclude from this observation? Well, recently, Schreuder and Oosterveld (2008) took a close look at the relationship between the rankings of 6,033 journals in a wide range of scientific disciplines, and the length of those journals’ titles. For their sample as a whole, and for journals in only five of the individual disciplinary groupings that they considered, they found that there is a significant negative correlation between the journals’ so-called “impact factors” and the number of characters in their title. The opposite result was obtained for the “Pediatrics” and “Urology and Nephrology” fields. It’s actually quite important to analyze data from different disciplines separately from one another, because we’re looking at figs and bananas here. By way of an example, in 2006 the average (highest) impact factor for economics journals was 0.8 (4.7), compared with 4.8 (47.4) in molecular and cell biology (Althouse et al., 2009).

So, what do we find when we look at economics journals in this way?