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
No top fives, no worries?
John Gibson 06 June 2014
Common understanding among academic economists is that ‘top five’ publications are qualitatively more valuable than lesser ones. This column presents recent research showing the effect of top publications (versus others) on salaries in the University of California system. Publications in prestigious journals have similar effects on salaries compared to other publications, with one notable exception.
Economics is unusual among academic disciplines in the emphasis it places on publication in a narrow set of top journals:
- For four decades at least, publishing in The American Economic Review, Econometrica, Journal of Political Economy, Quarterly Journal of Economics, or Review of Economic Studies has been viewed as qualitatively different than publishing in other journals.
Many economists and economics departments view their peers as falling into those who have at least one top-five publication and those that don’t.
research, publications, academics, journals, top journals
US and them: The geography of academic research
Jishnu Das, Quy-Toan Do 11 February 2014
The world has globalised massively yet some worry that academic publication has not. This column provides new evidence from 76,046 papers published during 1985-2004 in the top 202 economics journals. It shows that GDP per capita accounts for 75% of the variation in the country-focus of publications, suggesting the overrepresentation of the US is not an anomaly. Yet a closer look at top-five journals reveals a US bias that cannot be explained by data or researcher quality.
The world has globalised massively, but Bardhan (2003) and many others worry that academic publication has not. He asserts that researchers working on countries other than the US do not get a fair deal in the top economic journals. While work by Ellison (2000) documents how publishing in economics has changed over time, it is interesting to ask, at the end of three decades of globalisation, how global journals are today and whether publications in economics have become more representative of the world over time.
Development Frontiers of economic research
research, publications, journals
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
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
Nine facts about top journals in economics
David Card, Stefano DellaVigna 21 January 2013
'Publish or perish' has been the rule in academic economics since forever, but there is a widespread perception that publishing in the best journals has become harder and much slower. This column presents new evidence confirming the perception. The number of articles published in top journals has fallen, while the number and length of submissions have risen. The profession should consider recalibrating publication demands to reflect this new reality.
Publications in the top journals have a powerful influence on the direction of research in economics, on the career paths of young researchers (Conley et al. 2011), and on the pay of academic economists. To what extent has the publication process in these journals changed over the past few decades? Remarkably little comprehensive evidence exists on the topic.
Frontiers of economic research
research, publications, journals
The university as an internal labour market
Catherine M. Haeck, Frank Verboven 17 June 2010
How does a university organise its hiring and promotion policy? This column presents evidence on the personnel policy of a large European university. It suggests that the university is organised as an internal labour market, and while promotion dynamics depend on research and teaching performance, persistent administrative rigidities remain.
During the past decade policymakers have spent considerable effort to reform European universities. Aghion et al. (2008) provide a critical review of recent higher education policies and an agenda for desirable reforms. While European countries have coordinated quite intensively to reform their teaching programs and achieve compatible degrees throughout Europe, there has been little effort to coordinate reforms of the internal organisation of universities. As a result, European universities still show a large diversity in hiring, promotion, and tenure rules.
Education Labour markets
education, research, higher education, teaching
Why it matters who leads research universities
Amanda Goodall 02 January 2010
The best US universities outperform their European counterparts. This column says part of the gap is due to how universities choose leaders. Outstanding scholars are more likely to be selected as presidents in the top US universities, a move that is associated with improved research performance.
It is well known that the top European research universities underperform compared to their American counterparts. The evidence is summarised with policy recommendations by van der Ploeg and Veugelers (2008a,b). The authors raise the need for improved governance, in particular that governments should give universities greater autonomy to manage their own affairs. Leadership is an important part of governance, and again Europe lags.
Universities, research, leadership
Is Europe lagging behind the US in university technology licensing?
Annamaria Conti , Patrick Gaulé 30 July 2009
European universities produce high-quality scientific research, but they licence it to industry far less than US universities. This column introduces new survey evidence on university licensing and assesses the gap between the US and Europe. It highlights European universities’ shortcomings in generating technology transfer revenue, despite their desire to do so.
In an increasingly knowledge-based economy, it is widely believed that the quality of university-industry linkages is important for growth. On several occasions, the European Commission has argued that while European research institutions are good at producing academic research outputs, they are not successful in transferring these outputs to the economy – the so called ‘European Paradox’ (European Commission 2007). Reforms in the organisation of technology transfer are thus needed to improve knowledge transfer from public research institutions to firms.
Education Productivity and Innovation
Universities, research, technology