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Are leading papers of better quality? Evidence from a natural experiment

  • Tom Coupé
  • Victor Ginsburgh
  • Abdul Noury

European countries in which universities rely on public funding increasingly follow the lead of the United Kingdom and run Research Assessment Exercises. Given the subjective nature of such evaluations, some scientists prefer verifiable measures such as citation counts. This, however, also is prone to problems since the number of cites is correlated, among others, with the order of appearance in an issue. In particular, leading papers are more cited. It is, thus, difficult to assess whether they are of better quality, or whether this happens because they appear first in an issue. We make use of a natural experiment that was carried out by a journal in which papers are randomly ordered in some issues, while this order is at the editors' discretion in other issues. Our estimates suggest that approximately two thirds of the additional cites are due to going first, and one third to higher quality. Copyright 2010 Oxford University Press 2009 All rights reserved, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Oxford Economic Papers.

Volume (Year): 62 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 (January)
Pages: 1-11

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Handle: RePEc:oup:oxecpp:v:62:y:2010:i:1:p:1-11
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  1. GINSBURGH, Victor & van OURS, Jan, 2002. "Expert opinion and compensation: evidence from a musical competition," CORE Discussion Papers 2002033, Université catholique de Louvain, Center for Operations Research and Econometrics (CORE).
  2. Oswald, Andrew J., 2006. "An Examination of the Reliability of Prestigious Scholarly Journals: Evidence and Implications for Decision-makers," IZA Discussion Papers 2070, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Sofronis Clerides & Panos Pashardes & Alexandros Polycarpou, 2006. "Peer Review vs Metric-Based Assessment: Testing for Bias in the RAE Ratings of UK Economics Departments," University of Cyprus Working Papers in Economics 7-2006, University of Cyprus Department of Economics.
  4. William J. Moore & Robert J. Newman & Peter J. Sloane & Jeremy D. Steely, . "Productivity Effects of Research Assessment Exercises," Departmental Working Papers 2002-15, Department of Economics, Louisiana State University.
  5. Ayres, Ian & Vars, Fredrick E, 2000. "Determinants of Citations to Articles in Elite Law Reviews," The Journal of Legal Studies, University of Chicago Press, vol. 29(1), pages 427-50, January.
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