Determinants of prosocial behaviour: Lessons from an experiment with referees at the Journal of Public Economics
Raj Chetty, Emmanuel Saez, László Sándor 11 August 2014
Peer review is at the heart of academic economics, but there are few professional rewards for submitting detailed referee reports on time. This column reports the results from an experimental study of referee motivation. Shorter deadlines ‘nudged’ referees to submit reports earlier. Cash incentives also reduced turnaround times, suggesting that any ‘crowding out’ of intrinsic motivation is small. Social incentives – publication of turnaround times – were more effective for tenured referees than shorter deadlines or cash incentives.
Many organisations rely on prosocial behaviours – choices that benefit others but have a personal cost – to achieve their objectives. For instance, foundations rely on charitable contributions for funding, governments partly rely on voluntary compliance for tax revenue, and employers rely on voluntary referrals for hiring. Because such prosocial behaviours have positive externalities by definition, increasing such behaviour can improve welfare. What are the most effective policies to encourage prosocial behaviour?
Frontiers of economic research
research, incentives, Behavioural economics, academia, journals, peer review, social pressure, intrinsic motivation
Assessing Italian research quality: A comparison between bibliometric evaluation and informed peer review
Graziella Bertocchi, Alfonso Gambardella, Tullio Jappelli, Carmela A. Nappi, Franco Peracchi 28 July 2014
Assessing the quality of academic research is important – particularly in countries where universities receive most of their funding from the government. This column presents evidence from an Italian research assessment exercise. Bibliometric analysis – based on the journal in which a paper was published and its number of citations – produced very similar evaluations of research quality to informed peer review. Since bibliometric analysis is less costly, it can be used to monitor research on a more continuous basis and to predict the outcome of future peer-reviewed assessments.
Measuring research quality is a topic of growing interest to universities and research institutions. It has become a central issue in relation to the efficient allocation of public resources, which – in many countries and especially in Europe – represent the main component of university funding. Many countries – Australia, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Scandinavian countries, and the UK – have introduced national assessment exercises to gauge the quality of university research.
Frontiers of economic research
Universities, research, citations, science, academia, research quality, peer review, research assessments, bibliometrics
The mainstream economics curriculum needs an overhaul
Diane Coyle 04 May 2014
The undergraduate economics curriculum is hugely influential, since today’s undergraduates are tomorrow’s policymakers. The massive policy failures before and after the Global Crisis have thus prompted a rethink. This column argues that there is a reasonable degree of consensus on the need for curriculum reform, but no agreement on whether this means rejecting the basic building blocks of the subject. Nevertheless, undergraduate courses in five or ten years will almost surely have changed considerably in character.
One of the delayed consequences of the financial crisis is a widespread and apparently growing desire to change how economics is taught. Students in a number of countries, including vocal groups in Chile and the UK, have recently intensified the demand for reform. One recent example is a report from the Post-Crash Economics Society at the University of Manchester (Post-Crash Economics Society 2014).
Education Global crisis
education, financial crisis, global crisis, academia, teaching, economics education, undergraduates
Do we need highly cited departmental chairs?
Amanda Goodall, John McDowell, Larry Singell 31 January 2014
Much of human knowledge is produced in the world’s university departments, yet little is known about how these hundreds of thousands of departments are best organised and led. This column explores the association between the personal research output of a department head and the department’s subsequent performance. Results suggest that if a department wants to improve its reputation in the world, then the chair should be a highly cited researcher.
The advancement of scientific knowledge is the primary responsibility of approximately 300,000 academic departments housed in more than 20,000 universities worldwide, yet little is known about the factors that determine the productivity of those departments. chairs – or ‘Heads of Department’ – play a central role in the academic departments that make up universities. They manage daily operations, hire faculty and professional staff, and work closely with senior university administrators, most of whom were themselves once departmental heads.
Universities, Management, higher education, academia
Our uneconomic methods of measuring economic research
Stan Liebowitz 06 December 2013
Academic economists – especially in the US – are continuously evaluated, with salaries and promotions hanging on outcomes. This column argues that the methods – identified from a survey of economics department chairs – are likely to reduce the amount of research created, perpetuate inefficiently sized research teams, promote false authorship, and penalise honest researchers. They also provide departments with excessive leeway to engage in potentially capricious behaviour.
In the movie Moneyball, a nerdy Ivy League economics major, working for a general manager played by Brad Pitt, found undervalued baseball players by applying clear-headed logic and statistical techniques.1 Many economists watching this movie probably felt a tinge of pride in seeing our tools portrayed as rigorously objective. After all, economists have long been proponents of using logic to eliminate inefficiencies and rent-seeking in the economy (e.g. Tullock 1967).
productivity, research, citations, academia, journals, publication
Journal quality and citations: Why economists should practice what they preach
Daniel Sgroi 11 November 2013
In the upcoming UK Research Excellence Framework, a small panel of academics are tasked with rating thousands of academic submissions, which will result in university departments being ranked and public money being distributed. Given the enormity of the task and the scarcity of the resources devoted to it, this article discusses a straightforward procedure that might help, based on exactly the Bayesian methods that academic economists study and teach when considering the problem of decision-making under uncertainty.
The UK is about to enter into one of the most important academic ranking exercises in its history. The Research Excellence Framework (or REF), starting in 2014, will determine how money is divided between departments and how the UK perceives the quality of its own universities and departments. As part of this process, university-based research-active academics throughout the UK will soon be submitting work to the REF. There will be one panel for each discipline, each made up of a number of highly esteemed academics who will review the submissions.
higher education, uncertainty, academia, rankings, journals, Bayes’ rule
Herding cats? Management and university performance
John McCormack, Carol Propper, Sarah Smith 07 November 2013
The conventional wisdom is that managing academics is futile. This column challenges this view by comparing management performance in UK universities with measures of research and teaching quality. Universities with better management have better performance. This holds for all types of universities, and the results are not driven by differences in resources. Recruitment, retention, and promotion are the most important aspects of management in universities, but management at the level of academic departments – not human resources departments – is what matters.
The common view holds that managing academics is like herding cats – difficult and ultimately pointless. But this view of management contrasts with growing evidence that good management practices are like a good technology – they increase productivity (Bloom and Van Reenen 2010). Further, this finding holds for organisations in the public sector as well as in the private sector, and in many different countries across the world (Bloom et al. 2012).
Education Labour markets
Universities, Management, higher education, academia, human resources
Ageing and productivity: Economists and others
Daniel S. Hamermesh 20 February 2013
Publishing in economics is a very tough game, especially for young scholars trying to establish a research record while on a tenure clock. This column discusses new research that shows the age profile of authors in top journals has distinctly shifted away from young scholars. In 1993, half the authors of top-level articles were under 35 and 90% were under 50. Today, only a third are under 35.
Sixty years ago, Harvey Lehman published a path-breaking book examining the lifecycle of productivity in various fields, scientific, humanistic and artistic (Lehman 1953). He demonstrated the now widely accepted conclusion that the contributions of mathematicians and people in mathematics-related disciplines peak very early in their careers. Lehman also showed that artists and humanists in many cases achieved their greatest successes much later in life. How do economists stack up along the age-productivity dimension, and how has that been changing?
Frontiers of economic research Productivity and Innovation
research, technology, economists, academia, age, Nobel
Are leading papers in an issue of a journal of better “quality”?
Victor Ginsburgh 25 May 2012
Lead articles in academic journals tend to receive more citations than other articles. But does this mean they are any better? This column suggests that two-thirds of the additional citations that leading papers receive seem to be due to coming first in the journal, while only one-third are because they are genuinely better quality.
There exists a lively debate among scientists about evaluation methods. Some prefer peer review-based research assessments, while others think that bibliometric citation-based methods should be used as a verifiable mechanism for promotion and distribution of public research funds. Like peer reviews, but for other reasons, citations suffer from several problems. One of them is that they are related to the order in which editors arrange the sequence of papers in each issue of a journal.
Education Frontiers of economic research
academia, academic papers, evaluation, quality control