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"If you were based in a US university and using American data, I might send your paper out to referees."

I am not clear why this sentence is needed considering you have already made it clear that the paper is not sufficiently interesting, novel, and rigorous to warrant consideration.

Joel - because there's an element of truth in it. You have two papers on your desk. Both are certain rejects. One is written by the student of a former colleague/grad school buddy/person I go out drinking with at conferences. One is written by someone you have no personal relationship with.

I'll tell you, it's much easier to do a desk reject when you don't know the person involved, will never meet them, and you know that it's going to be almost impossible to get referees for the paper anyways.

I agree with you that these things *shouldn't* affect editorial decision making. But I think that, in the real world, they probably do.

Frances, thanks for your answer to my comment. Publishing sure is quite the game; as I have been finding out over the past year.

The "dataset you collected yourself" bit would put you in the 'novel' category, no?

what's wrong with collecting data yourself?! that's what real science is all about.

Sina, Stephen - collecting data yourself is great if you can create a good, well-structured questionnaire, find a representative sample of the population of interest, and get a reasonably high response rate.

If you recall, the Worthwhile Survey Initiative at the time of the last election http://worthwhile.typepad.com/files/surveysummary_04122011.pdf prophesied a resounding Liberal victory, and levels of Conservative support basically on par with support for the Green party.

I should have said that in the letter - small sample, low response rate, sample not representative of the population as a whole.

I've updated the letter in response to Sina and Stephen's comments, which were very fair.

Many of your complaints seem reasonable, except two:
- "we think nothing is economics unless it fits within a certain mainstream paradigm. The type of papers we like are ones that show that people respond to incentives, for example, have more children in response to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Ideally, we like to show economists are right and other people are wrong." Which seems anti-scientific. If someone can use good math and reliable data, and still come out with an answer that doesn't fit within the mainstream paradigm of economists, they damn well should be published. And let the consensus either adjust to the new data, or for somebody to use equally good math and reliable data to disprove this paper. The idea that our existing notions cannot be challenged would make economics a religion rather than a science.

- "If you were based in a US university and using American data, I might send your paper out to referees."
It's not clear to me that there's anything special about US data, and there's probably lots to be learned from data in developing countries, provided they have reliable collection methods. Trying to learn new things about how humans interact in an economic settings from forever investigating the same data has diminishing returns. And as the American condition is certainly not typical of the human condition, it seems like the bias in the data towards the educated and well-off might mean that it's consistently telling us something that doesn't have a general application outside of that particular subset of people.

Everything else - grammar, causality, lack of math etc, all seem like perfectly reasonable justifications for tossing out a paper without even sending it to referees.

How about "The survey you analyze is composed of anecdotes collected according to no known statistical sampling design"?

Neil: "If someone can use good math and reliable data, and still come out with an answer that doesn't fit within the mainstream paradigm of economists, they damn well should be published."

That's how paradigms work, and how they exert power over disciplines - by shaping how the truthiness of things is perceived.

"It's not clear to me that there's anything special about US data" - US political scientists have been known to use the expression "a superpower like the United States." Of course there *is* no other superpower like the the US, so it's a ridiculous thing to say. But it captures a widespread feeling that the US experience is universal and generalizable, whereas other countries' experiences are particular, not of interest. Again, it's not how it *should* be, but it's how some people figure the profession is.

As someone with tenure at a business school, I must protest vehemently.

"Business" journals care even more about good spelling and grammar than economics journals....(unless you write with style and are creating new verbs, like "impact", "platform", "Walmart", etc.)

Stephen - excellent suggestion! ;-)

Simon - just trying to offend as broad a cross-section of people as possible! Though, seriously, I think business isn't dominated by a single paradigm the way that econ is, and is more open to inductive (as opposed to deductive) reasoning.

An economist admits that economics is subject to severe group-think....

Frances, I thought you *weren't* supposed to say that, regardless of its veracity.

Because it's music to the ears of lefties like me. What's next, unemployment may be involuntary?

I'm kind of with Determinant here. This "humorous" letter says more about its author than it does about its subject. At least it has outlined *two* problems with academic economics, rather than just one.

Ryan, Determinant - you're right, I feel like s**t when I do desk rejects. And there's a lot of stuff that really stinks about the academic publishing business. But all around the world scholars are being pushed into doing it. That's why writing these fake rejection letters is so cathartic.

As an aside: The top Asian universities in places like HK, China, Singapore, Taiwan are starting to do really well and seriously challenge North American and European ones - there is a really rapid rise there. India has some internationally known scholars but not as many as one would expect given its population/education level/English language competence - though there are no doubt other factors at play there e.g., when the Higgs boson particle was discovered, how much discussion was there are of Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose, for whom boson particles are named? Boson particles aren't even capitalized.

Last time we discussed the topic of "editorial agendas" in economics, Frances and Stephen made it clear that economics turns on US data. That's where the big-name journals are and that's what they want. The discussion was in the context of government grants for economics departments in Canada.

I posited that the Government (and the public) could legitimately expect and require that grant-funded research focus on Canadian data. Frances and Stephen replied that no economist would have a publishing career and hence have no career if that were the case.

Of course publishing is full of personal agendas, assumptions, group-think and unspoken truths. Like so many other social activities.

Great post, you explain how linguistic imperialism work (in academia).

ma - that's, in part, what I was meaning to do.

Boson particles aren't even capitalized. In fairness, neither are fermions.

Wonder why that is - noun v. adjective?

I think the boson capitalization is a bit of a red herring. Proper names in portmanteau words like lawrencium, einsteinium and boson lose their case, whereas when the proper name is retained, as in Higgs boson, Nash equilibrium and Feynman diagram, the upper case is also retained. Adjectives drawn from proper names also keep their capitalization (Newtonian, Ricardian) Are there portmanteau words in economics based on proper names? I can't think of any, but then IANAE.

I'm trying to think. We don't invent a lot of nouns in econ - I'm thinking of important econ nouns - inflation, unemployment, employment, equilibrium, taxes, tariffs, exports, imports, externality, good, bad, commodity - can't think of any econ equivalents to boson.

Lots of "portmanteaus" (not sure that's the right word to use for these) in economics, but most of them are adjectives: Pigouvian, LaGrangean, Walrasian, Lucasian, Keynesian, etc. etc.

Then there are names used as adjectives, such as Pareto [optimality], Nash [equilibrium], Slutsky [equations], and so forth.

Lagrangian actually used as a noun as in "take the first order conditions of that Lagrangian" - but that's a math term, not an econ one. The rest are all used as adjectives, as Ryan says.

That's funny. I loved the title. I would still send it if I were you. Just for laughs.

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