Economic Journal - editors' report

The Managing Editors make their Annual Report to the Council of the Royal Economic Society in November. The 2005 Report was presented on their behalf by Leonardo Felli.

A new editorial team
This is the first report of the new editorial board that started its duties in July 2004. This new team consisted of Marianne Bertrand (Chicago Business School, Applied Microeconomics), Leonardo Felli (LSE, Microeconomic Theory), Andrew Scott (London Business School, Applied Macroeconomics), Jaume Ventura (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Macroeconomic Theory) and the incumbent Features Editor, Steve Machin (University College, London). After making a full contribution to the launch of the new editorial team, Marianne Bertrand stepped down as editor for personal reasons and her place was taken by Steve Pischke (LSE) from July 1st 2005.

After more than a year at the helm I am glad to report, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, that both the journal and its new editors seem in rude health. Across a range of summary indicators — including number of submissions, citation rankings, the speed with which submissions are processed and the international diversification of submitting authors — the Economic Journal would appear to be flourishing.

Progress over the year
As is the case with all editorial teams we started our custody of the journal with two general aims i) to build on the work of our predecessors in raising the reputation of the journal and ii) making our own distinctive mark on the journal and its operations.

International profile and associate editors
Raising the reputation of a journal is a difficult task with long gestation lags and inevitable ambiguities as regards the measurement of success. The previous editorial board identified as a main aim the need to make the journal more international. As past reports have shown they succeeded in meeting this target and their influence remains in our statistics — only 18 per cent of submissions originate in the UK, 33 per cent from North America and 34 per cent from Continental Europe (see table 1). With the past editors having achieved such a high level of international diversification amongst submitting authors we have focused on making the editorial board more internationally diverse. With an increasing level of submissions we have also followed the path of most other journals and substantially increased both the number and role of associate editors. At the time of writing, we are pleased to announce that the following associate editors have accepted the challenge to enhance the journal’s reputation further:


Journal ranking
One obvious and tangible way of measuring the success of a journal is through citation rankings, among which the ISI’s citation index is the most regarded. Focusing on impact factor (citations made to Economic Journal articles in any year divided by papers published in that year) shows the Economic Journal rising from 1.134 in 2002, to 1.295 in 2003 and 1.723 in 2004. With the EJ achieving a higher ranking (15th) than the American Economic Review (16th) in 2004 this is a considerable tribute to the past editorial team. It is of course unwise for any editor to place too much faith in citation rankings as the profession clearly judges the quality of journals by more subjective criteria, but these are impressive results. I suspect, however, that the position of the journal in this ranking will slip in 2005 as we have planned a temporary but significant increase in the number of papers published. The decision to publish more papers has been made in order to clear an accumulation of accepted papers from the old editorial board. The result will be to reduce what would otherwise have been unacceptable delays for authors between acceptance and publication. It will also have the benefit, as far as the new editorial team are concerned, that from 2006 the EJ will increasingly reflect the efforts of the new editorial team. However, given the way the citation index is created, an inevitable fall in our impact factor and ranking will occur.


Editorial speed
While any intellectual changes arising from a new editorial team will manifest themselves only from 2006, a number of more immediate changes are very apparent. Chief amongst these is the shift towards a completely electronic submission process for authors and referees. Under the excellent guidance of Heather Daly, the EJ’s publishing editor, all submissions, reports and interaction is now done via the web using John Rust’s Editorial Express package. Shifting from a paper based office, which had been based in York for over 20 years to a virtual system was a Herculean task. Now that it is operating one gets the impression that the web was designed specifically to make the life of academic editors easier, such is the success of the program. This has in turn facilitated a sharp improvement in turnaround time. Average time between submission and receiving an editorial decision has fallen from 25 to 14 weeks since 2003. Thirty percent of all submissions receive a response within a month, in part due to an increase in the summary rejection rate from 24 per cent to 29 per cent. Excluding the 182 summary rejects, 36 per cent of remaining submissions, on which at least one referee is consulted, receive a decision in fewer than 4 months (see tables 3 and 4).

Submissions
However, economics teaches us that at the margin things are equated and although the software has enabled a substantial improvement in processing time, from an editorial perspective this has been more than offset by a surge in submissions. From a total of 492 in 2003, to 627 in the 12 month period from 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005 (a 27 per cent increase), and if current trends are maintained we should receive more than 700 papers in total for calendar year 2005. If we add to this the conference volume submissions (see below) the editorial burden has clearly increased sharply. As a result it is our intention to add a further editor to the board to assist and help us maintain our turnaround times.

The year ahead
The next year will see an increasing number of papers published which have been accepted by the new editorial board. A major editorial task will therefore be helping to shepherd these papers through to the pages of the journal in a way that will maximise their impact. This is clearly a key service that a journal can offer authors that is of benefit to all. Maintaining rapid turnaround times in the face of the seeming trend increase in submissions will also be a major goal.

Probably the major remaining structural task that we face is attempting a greater degree of coordination between the regular issues of the EJ, Features, Book Reviews and the Conference Volume. The previous editors very successfully disentangled these various aspects of the journal and gave each a separate identity. Our intention is to build on this but achieve more coordination between the various issues.

Under Steve Machin’s excellent stewardship the Features issues have been very successful and popular and his report (see below) indicates this is likely to continue. There is however undoubtedly scope for greater coordination with the regular issues as the quality of Features and some of the topics mesh well with submissions we receive for the regular issues. The major initiative planned is to move the Conference volume under the control of the main editorial board, with Steve Machin taking a guiding role. Currently a number of very promising papers do not get accepted for the conference volume given the necessarily tight timetable. These papers will now be offered an opportunity to continue with a revise and resubmit aimed at publication in a regular issue of the journal. Having the conference volume edited by the main editorial board will also enable a degree of consistency in judgements that past arrangements did not allow. We are once again fortunate to inherit a good legacy from the efforts of others. Rachel Griffith and Carlo Perroni have performed an excellent job with this year’s volume and I am very pleased to say that Carlo has agreed to help us during the transition towards having the conference volume fully in the EJ editorial stable.

Economic Journal Lecture

The Economic Journal Lecture at the 2005 RES Conference at Nottingham was given by Ariel Rubinstein. Narayana Kocherlakota (University of Minnesota) has agreed to give the lecture in 2006.

Royal Economic Society prize

The prize, worth £3,000, is awarded annually to the best article in the Economic Journal. The prize committee for the 2004 RES prize, consisting of, on behalf of the editors, Professor Andrew Scott, President of the Royal Economic Society, Professor John Sutton, and Professor Stephen Nickell, a member of the Royal Economic Society Council, are currently finalizing their selection from a short list. An announcement on the prize is imminent.

The ‘Features’ section (Steve Machin)

This brief report summarises the current state of play (October, 2005) with the ‘Features’ part of the Economic Journal. Details of the next issue in February 2006 are given below, followed by a short summary of symposia and articles that are currently under review.


February 2006
Feature: IT Diffusion and Industry and Labour Market Dynamics

‘Introduction: IT Diffusion and Industry and Labour Market Dynamics’ by Bas ter Weel.

I: Networks and Industry Dynamics

‘Revolutionary Effects of New Information Technologies’ by Gerard J van den Berg.

‘The Growth of Network Computing: Quality Adjusted Price-Changes for Network Servers’ by John Van Reenen.

II: Information Technology and Workplace Organisation


‘The Division of Labour Worker Organisation and Technological Change’ by Lex Borghans and Bas ter Weel


‘New Technologies, Workplace Organisation and the Age Structure of the Workforce: Firm Level Evidence’ by Patrick Aubert, Eve Caroli and Muriel Roger.


Articles:

‘Reforming Public Pensions in the US and the UK’
by Peter Diamond.

‘UK Real-time Macro Data Characteristics’ by Anthony Garratt and Shaun P Vahey.


Future articles and symposia under review:

Features —

Monetary Policy and Sterling Exchange Rate (Cobham et al)

Wages, Mobility and Firm Performance: An Analysis using Matched Employee and Employer Data from France (Kramarz et al)

Profiling (Manski et al)

Microfinance (Hermes et al)

Wage Rigidity: Measurement, Causes and Consequences (Bauer et al)

Cross-Border Mergers and Acquisitions and Economic Policies (Hijzen et al)

Articles —

Immigration or Bust? (Blake and Mayhew)

Real-Time Output Gaps in the Estimation of Taylor Rules: A Red Herring? (Adam and Cobham).

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