Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Anecdotes of a journal editor

The job of theory editor at the AER is unique in one way. There are thousands of people who believe they have a Great Economic Idea that economists desperately need to know. Let us agree to call these people “kooks” for want of a better term. Pretty much 100% of kooks are theorists; you won’t meet a, say, physicist or physician with a Great Economic Idea that involved running regressions or doing lab experiments, although occasionally there is a table illustrating a correlation between some economic variable like lawyers or fluoridated water and per capita GDP. ...

As a final anecdote, I received a [referee] report from a respected economist, who said in the letter to me: ‘I have written a gentle report, because the author is obviously inexperienced and very junior, and I don’t want to discourage him. But make no mistake: this paper makes no contribution and you should not encourage a revision.’ The author of that paper, which I rejected, had already won a Nobel prize in economics.
--Preston McAfee on what editors see. HT: Marginal Revolution

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