Sunday, June 12, 2011

Type I Errors in Economics Publishing

"Economists are peculiar social scientists not least because they attach enormous value to the publication of articles in the refereed journals and virtually no value to the publication of books. It is difficult for economists to have a coffee break without a conversation which quickly turns to questions like: "Why was my article refereed by so-and-so journal? Why did the anonymous referees say what they did? Where shall I send my next paper?" In short, the publication process merits a hideous fascination if only because it governs the pecuniary and non-pecuniary rewards of the economics profession."

Sound familiar?

This quote is taken from the blurb (product description) for the book, Publishing Economics: Analyses of the Academic Journal Market in Economics, edited about a decade ago by Joshua Gans. This book contains fifteen great articles that still highly relevant, and should be required reading for all young econometricians.

Joshua, and his former Stanford class-mate, George Shepherd, wrote a great article (Gans and Shepherd, 1994) providing us with tales of rejection from many eminent economists. Econometricians can take heart from the fact that the list includes James Tobin's unsuccessful attempts to get his work on the Tobit model published in Journal of the American Statistical Association (the statisticians' equivalent to the AER.)

The material gathered in preparing this paper was subsequently edited by George into the book, Rejected: Leading Economists Ponder the Publication Process. Again, an except from the product description does a better job than I could:

"Many people know that Robert Merton and Myron Scholes won the 1997 Nobel Prize in Economics for their now famous 1973 paper on options pricing. A lucky few are aware that this options paper was rejected by several leading journals before the Journal of Political Economy finally accepted it. This book compiles tales of rejection from more than 70 leading economists, including 20 Nobel winners."
The tales herein are a great read. Especially if you've recently received a rejection letter!

Note: The link to the following reference will be helpful only if your computer's IP address gives you access to the electronic versions of the publications in question. That's why a written Reference section is provided.


Gans, J. S. and G. B. Shepherd (1994). How are the mighty fallen: Rejected classic articles by leading economists. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8, 165-179.

© 2011, David E. Giles