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What do Editors Maximize? Evidence from Four Leading Economics Journals

Listed author(s):
  • David Card
  • Stefano DellaVigna

We study editorial decision-making using anonymized submission data for four leading economics journals: the Journal of the European Economics Association, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, the Review of Economic Studies, and the Review of Economics and Statistics. We match papers to the publication records of authors at the time of submission and to subsequent Google Scholar citations. To guide our analysis we develop a benchmark model in which editors maximize the expected quality of accepted papers and citations are unbiased measures of quality. We then generalize the model to allow different quality thresholds for different papers, and systematic gaps between citations and quality. Empirically, we find that referee recommendations are strong predictors of citations, and that editors follow the recommendations quite closely. Holding constant the referees' evaluations, however, papers by highly-published authors get more citations, suggesting that referees impose a higher bar for these authors, or that prolific authors are over-cited. Editors only partially offset the referees' opinions, effectively discounting the citations of more prolific authors in their revise and resubmit decisions by up to 80%. To disentangle the two explanations for this discounting, we conduct a survey of specialists, asking them for their preferred relative citation counts for matched pairs of papers. The responses show no indication that prolific authors are over-cited and thus suggest that referees and editors seek to support less prolific authors.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23282.

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Date of creation: Mar 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23282
Note: IO LS PE POL PR
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  1. Ivo Welch, 2014. "Referee Recommendations," Review of Financial Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 27(9), pages 2773-2804.
  2. Cherkashin, Ivan & Demidova, Svetlana & Imai, Susumu & Krishna, Kala, 2009. "The inside scoop: Acceptance and rejection at the journal of international economics," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(1), pages 120-132, February.
  3. Daniel S. Hamermesh, 1994. "Facts and Myths about Refereeing," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(1), pages 153-163, Winter.
  4. Michael J. Hilmer & Michael R. Ransom & Christiana E. Hilmer, 2015. "Fame and the fortune of academic economists: How the market rewards influential research in economics," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 82(2), pages 430-452, October.
  5. Glenn Ellison, 2013. "How Does the Market Use Citation Data? The Hirsch Index in Economics," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(3), pages 63-90, July.
  6. Radu Vranceanu & Damien Besancenot & Kim Huynh, 2009. "Desk rejection in an academic publication market model with matching frictions," Post-Print hal-00554732, HAL.
  7. Marshall Medoff, 2006. "Evidence of a Harvard and Chicago Matthew Effect," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 13(4), pages 485-506.
  8. Blank, Rebecca M, 1991. "The Effects of Double-Blind versus Single-Blind Reviewing: Experimental Evidence from The American Economic Review," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 81(5), pages 1041-1067, December.
  9. repec:spr:jogath:v:46:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s00182-016-0551-9 is not listed on IDEAS
  10. Marshall H. Medoff, 2003. "Editorial Favoritism in Economics?," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 70(2), pages 425-434, October.
  11. Raj Chetty & Emmanuel Saez & Laszlo Sandor, 2014. "What Policies Increase Prosocial Behavior? An Experiment with Referees at the Journal of Public Economics," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 28(3), pages 169-188, Summer.
  12. Elisabeth Schulte & Mike Felgenhauer, 2017. "Preselection and expert advice," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 46(3), pages 693-714, August.
  13. Glenn Ellison, 2002. "The Slowdown of the Economics Publishing Process," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 947-993, October.
  14. David Card & Stefano DellaVigna, 2013. "Nine Facts about Top Journals in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 51(1), pages 144-161, March.
  15. Jonathan B. Berk & Campbell R. Harvey & David Hirshleifer, 2017. "How to Write an Effective Referee Report and Improve the Scientific Review Process," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 31(1), pages 231-244, Winter.
  16. Glenn Ellison, 2002. "Evolving Standards for Academic Publishing: A q-r Theory," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 110(5), pages 994-1034, October.
  17. Laband, David N & Piette, Michael J, 1994. "Favoritism versus Search for Good Papers: Empirical Evidence Regarding the Behavior of Journal Editors," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(1), pages 194-203, February.
  18. Hofmeister Robert & Krapf Matthias, 2011. "How Do Editors Select Papers, and How Good are They at Doing It?," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 11(1), pages 1-23, October.
  19. Carole J. Lee & Cassidy R. Sugimoto & Guo Zhang & Blaise Cronin, 2013. "Bias in peer review," Journal of the Association for Information Science & Technology, Association for Information Science & Technology, vol. 64(1), pages 2-17, January.
  20. Brogaard, Jonathan & Engelberg, Joseph & Parsons, Christopher A., 2014. "Networks and productivity: Causal evidence from editor rotations," Journal of Financial Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(1), pages 251-270.
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