Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Is peer review in decline?

The standard method for judging the "quality" of an academic is via the peer review system in academic journals.

In a recent paper Glen Ellison notes a decline in the the papers written by economists from the highest ranked Universities in the highest ranked journals.

Ellison blames the internet suggesting that alternative methods of dissemination that are not peer reviewed means that top economists are cutting out this method of publication.

Whilst this may be partially correct such a conclusion does a disservice to those Economists that are not in the top departments and yet are publishing in the top journals. Moreover, the US tenure system ensures high productivity in an academics early career but then, due to the perverse incentives, academics have been known to slow down dramatically so as not to "dilute" their CV with "less than top journal" publications.

As long as publications = promotion there will be no decline in peer review for the vast majority of academics. It is perhaps only the elite few who will have the luxury of ignoring the "publish or perish" mentality pervasive in University structures.


"Is Peer Review in Decline?"
NBER Working Paper No. W13272

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) -
Department of Economics, National Bureau of
Economic Research (NBER)

Full Text:

ABSTRACT: Over the past decade there has been a decline in the fraction of papers in top economics journals written by economists from the highest-ranked economics departments. This paper documents this fact and uses additional data on publications and citations to assess various potential explanations. Several observations are consistent with the hypothesis that the Internet improves the ability of high-profile authors to disseminate their research without going through the traditional peer-review process.


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