Two letters to the editor

Sir,

Andrew Oswald’s contribution to the last Newsletter on the possible contrast between journal reputations and the quality of research published, via consideration of the difficulty of advising junior staff on a journal paper submission strategy, leads me to ask whether the exclusivity rule (only submit to one journal at a time) imposed by all economic (and other scholarly) journals is (a) legal and (b) desirable.

Legally, under the 1998 Competition Act (reflecting article 81 of the Treaty of Rome), actions that prevent, restrict, or distort competition infringe the Chapter 1 prohibition. With all journals demanding exclusivity there may be some (implicit) collusion that infringes this prohibition. As journals do not have to compete in terms of turn round times for articles once submitted (except in terms of possible reputational effects), there is no competitive pressure encouraging the efficient or speedy considerations of papers. Most of us have experienced, on occasion, very lengthy turn round times. It is ironic that a profession that has for long extolled the virtues of competition, and more than any other is responsible for anti trust legislation, appears to be built upon such a non competitive foundation.

Although one may well see why exclusivity is in the interests of the journals, it is not at all clear that it is in the interests of the authors. In particular new staff, especially probationary staff, have to establish reputations through publications in a fixed time frame. For such staff, under exclusivity, there may well be a trade-off between the desire to publish in the best journal and the expenditure of valuable time that an unsuccessful application will require. For more established members of staff with a pipeline of publications there is perhaps less of a problem, but the considerations are still relevant.

It may well be that in the absence of the exclusivity rule and in the face of competition in turn round times that the world of academic publishing would be different in many ways ( e.g. payments to referees, payments by authors, restricted exclusivity) but such is the ill wind of competition.


Professor Paul Stoneman
Warwick Business School
University of Warwick


Sir,

The Newsletter always contains material of interest.

Sometime before Word War II, I believe c.1939, we were offered the opportunity to get life membership of the RES for $150.00. I accepted. Perhaps the best investment I ever made — even allowing for the ever-more-complex articles I cannot understand. (Or need to).

The profession differs profoundly from my first days as a graduate student here at Columbia in 1935. The world has progressed beyond measurement — the numbers cannot embrace much of significance (mostly net benefit).

Often I wonder whether economists have made a net contribution. One can hope — and some (alas not I) have hope in prayer.

Sincerely,

Professor C. Lowell Harriss
Professor Emeritus
Columbia University

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