Economic Journal - Editors' Report

The Managing Editors make their Annual Report to the Council of the Royal Economic Society in November. The 2009 Report was presented on their behalf by Andrew Scott. This is a shortened version.

Overview

• For the third year running total submissions to the journal were around 700 (with an additional 60 papers for the conference volume). Over the course of the year we accepted a total of 49 papers.

• The distribution of submissions across geography and fields barely changed from the previous year. The most common source for submitted papers is Continental Europe, then North America and then the UK. The most popular fields are Microeconomics, Labour Economics and Money and International.

• Average turnaround time for papers remains just under 10 weeks. Around 55% of papers receive an Editorial reject (decision by editor, often with comments, but no referee reports). For papers which receive referee reports the mean response is 4 month. Only 6% of papers take more than 6 months to process.

• The Economic Journal recorded its highest ever citation impact factor (1.798 up from 1.548 the previous year) which placed us 17th out of 201 journals.

• We have implemented our policy of allowing submitting authors to provide reports and editors letters from previous journal submissions. It is still early days for the policy but it seems to be working well. We have now scrapped referee payments and instead award 10 annual prizes worth £500 each for the best referee reports we received.

Introduction – The Changing World of Journals?

External Events

The extraordinary financial market events of the past two years have led to widespread debate and questioning of the state of economics, particularly in macroeconomics. Economics has been accused of being narrow minded, obsessively technical, blind to the importance of history and the wider social sciences and having become too far removed from the intelligent lay reader. Many commentators lament how when Keynes edited The Economic Journal it was intelligible to many and how we should move away from technical exactitude to broader insights.

There are undoubtedly many important lessons to be learnt from the crisis and I look forward eagerly to how a new and energetic research agenda will be displayed in the pages of The Economic Journal and elsewhere. I think the crisis has revealed many areas in economic research where our portfolio of activities was balanced incorrectly and I welcome that shift. As an editor I also look forward to receiving more papers where the questions posed are as important as the quality of the answers provided and publishing papers which generate interest even though they may not be the final word on a topic. Further as a profession I think we should welcome the huge stimulus to public interest in our subject and do much better at communicating, teaching and explaining our insights and ways of thinking beyond our narrow professional class.

However I also feel that the criticism of the profession and its journals is often aimed at a strawman. Looking through recent years of The Economic Journal I see a range of intellectual viewpoints and methodologies displayed. History, behaviouralism and experiments are well represented. Macro models with learning, multiple equilibria and heterogeneity are also there along with more mainstream fare. I am confident that the pages of The Economic Journal will show changes as a result of the crisis but I do not believe we need a radical departure. The Economic Journal has always been a broad church and I hope it continues to be so.

Like most academic journals I suspect The Economic Journal will continue to be a demanding read for the intelligent layman. I doubt progress can be made in any discipline without this being the case. At the same time as a largely unpredicted economic crisis occurred whose scale, reach and duration has proved hard to pin down and whose consequences are potentially enormous the medical profession has been wrestling with exactly the same set of issues due to the H1N1 virus. Interestingly the medical profession has not been criticised for its over reliance on technique, there have been no demands for medical journals to be accessible to the layman or to jettison years of recent research and to go back to reading Malthus.

The Journal Industry

The world of academic journals is a relatively conservative one. Technology has affected how editors process submissions and is increasingly affecting how subscribers access the journal. However, surprisingly few changes have been made to the structure of the author-editor-journal nexus and little use has been made of the networking features of the web. The main development has been less a product of technology but instead a proliferation in the number of journals as the size of the profession grows alongside the importance of publishing. Historically this has produced an increase in field journals but more recently some of the top general journals (Econometrica and American Economic Review) have launched associated field journals.

It is too early to tell what the full impact of these changes will be on The Economic Journal but to date the outcomes seem positive. We continue to use technology to produce rapid turnaround time for authors and believe that our performance compares favourably with the industry. Our level of submissions and their composition remains effectively unchanged from a year earlier suggesting no impact to date from the new journals. The editorial team feel that we continue to receive a number of strong submissions and despite publishing more papers last year our citation impact increased to its highest ever level.

Progress Over the Year

Submissions

Over the last year (1st July 2008 to 30th June 2009) we received a total of 702 submitted papers. This number has been near constant for the last three years suggesting that our earlier surge in submissions has now levelled off. It may be that the constancy of overall submissions reveals the impact of the launch of the new journals.

What is striking comparing the statistics with the previous year is how hardly anything has been affected – geographical distribution and field categories have remained essentially unchanged. Approximately 40% of our submissions are from Continental Europe, 30% from the USA and 15% from the UK. Micro, labour, money/macro and international are our four largest fields in terms of submissions.

Editorial Processing Time

The Economic Journal continues to provide rapid turnaround time. The average turnaround time for papers is approximately 10 weeks. Around 55% (51% the previous year) of papers are dealt with by Editors alone and these are papers where a decision is normally made within two weeks of submission. Editorial rejects is a broad category that includes both papers where a standard rejection is issued but also a growing proportion of letters where the Editor offers some feedback on the paper. This feedback varies from a few paragraphs to a few pages.

The improvement in turnaround time is not solely due to an increase in Editorial rejects. We have also made further progress in reducing the number of papers where a decision takes more than 6 months. This is now down to only 6% of total submissions.

Acceptances

Over the past year we accepted a total of 49 papers which if we compare with the 702 submissions received in the year gives a naïve measure of an acceptance rate of 7%. The previous year we accepted 74 papers out of 700 – it seems to be getting harder to publish in The Economic Journal.

Innovations

We have now implemented two previously announced changes. The first of these we encourage you to draw to the attention of as many authors as you can. When submitting a paper to the EJ we encourage authors to attach editorial letters and referee reports from previous journals. Many authors comment on how they have been unlucky at previous journals and it seems wrong to throw this information away. Further papers are often improved by referee reports from rejecting journals and this information can usefully support a submission. It is still early days for this new procedure but we are finding that it helps speed significantly the processing of papers. We reserve of course the right to editorially reject papers and choose our own referees but believe this innovation has important efficiency gains in valuing papers and speeding up the submission process.

The second innovation is the scrapping of payments for referee reports and their replacement with 10 annual prizes worth £500 each for the best referee reports received. This change has not been made in order to speed up referees but to acknowledge the hard work that some referees put in but never benefit from because of anonymity. Given that often it is younger authors who are most conscientious with their reports we hope this recognition has some social value.

Rankings

The 2008 citation rankings showed an increase in our impact factor (citations made in 2008 to EJ papers published in 2006 and 2007) from 1.548 to 1.798. This was despite an increase of 21 in the number of papers published in the period compared to the year before. This citation is the highest ever for the EJ and gives us a ranking of 17 out of the sample of 207 journals covered.

Editorial Changes

There were no changes in the main editorial board but due to our policy of rotation there were changes amongst the Associate Editors. We say farewell with thanks to George-Marios Angeletos, Jean Imbs, Monika Piazzesi, Morten Ravn, Ronny Razin and Leeat Yariv. We welcome on board Klaus Adam, Heski Bar-Isaac, Ben Lockwood, Silvana Tenreyro and Chris Wallace. Christian Dustmann and Ulrike Malmandier have kindly agreed to serve a second term.

Prizes and EJ Lecture

The Royal Economic Society prize for the best paper published in 2008 was awarded to Glenn Rudebusch and Tao Wu for their article “A Macro Finance Model of the Term Structure, Monetary Policy and the Economy”. The Austin Robinson prize is awarded to the best paper published in the journal by author(s) within 5 years of graduating with a doctorate. The 20008 award went to Elias Papaioannou and Gregorios Siourounis for their paper “Democratisation and Growth”.

The RES prize for 2009 will be announced soon and is to be decided by a committee of Professor Sir John Vickers, Professor Costas Meghir of University College, London and myself. The 2009 winner of the Austin Robinson Prize will also be announced soon – this prize is selected by the Editorial team of the journal.

The EJ lecture at the RES Annual conference was presented by Professor Gilles Saint-Paul of Université des Sciences Sociales de Toulouse and was entitled “Endogenous Indoctrination” and will be published in 2010.

Conference Volume

Four years ago it was decided that the Conference Volume should be edited by selected members of the main Editorial Board of The Economic Journal. For the last three years this has been done by myself and Steve Machin. The idea was to better harmonise standards between the volume and regular issues and also offer papers which are promising but not ready for the conference volume the chance of a second round with the same referees and editors in the main Journal. Because the conference volume is edited to the same standard as the regular issues the separate pagination was dropped.

This year we received a total of 60 submissions for the Conference volume, including 3 invited lectures. (These submissions are not included in the statistical data in the Appendix.) This was a decline from 75 the previous year although with only 15 Editorial rejects compared with 33 the previous year it would seem that quality was unaffected. In fact we are pleased to announce that the quality was so strong that we accepted 15 papers and 1 further paper was asked to revise and resubmit. Given that we have space for only 13 papers in the regular issue two of these accepted papers will be published in the following issue. The fact that we can do so is evidence that the closer integration between Journal and Conference Volume was a wise step.

The Year Ahead

The editorial board is now very experienced and the processing side of the submission process works extremely well with what we believe are impressive turnaround statistics compared to the professions’ average.

We are as always committed to raising standards even further and given our healthy volume of submissions and accepted pipeline of papers we expect further reductions in our acceptance rate. As a journal we remain open to all our areas of economics and look forward to benefiting from any shifts in research focus that the events of the last two years produce. We hope that through continual innovation, such as accepting referee reports from past submissions, The Economic Journal can continue to prosper and improve its reputation.

                                - Andrew Scott, September 2009

Report on Economic Journal Features

This brief report summarises the current position of the Features part of the Economic Journal.

Forthcoming Issues
Details of the next two issues in November 2009 and February 2010 (provisional) are given at the end of this section.

Current Stock of Features and Articles
In addition, we have a number of Features (3) and articles (14) currently in the refereeing process and have several Book Reviews taking place.

Process in Features Submission
The nature of Features is heterogeneous in that their submission and selection is considered through a number of routes. The process is normally that a Coordinator submits a possible Feature through a proposal with signed up authors and abstracts (sometimes, for example if the Feature arises from a conference, complete papers may be available). As Editor I then make a decision about proceeding to the refereeing stage, if necessary consulting with Associate Editors (if the academic content is removed from my areas of expertise).

Role of Submitted Offers
When a proposal moves to the refereeing stage, all papers are refereed and referees are asked to look at the whole Feature and to appraise is suitability or otherwise.This is quite onerous, and more so than the usual refereeing request, but my experience is that referees have been very willing. There is again heterogeneity in the outcome here. In some cases, all papers are published, in others only a sub-set and in other cases all papers are rejected.

Book Reviews
The plan at Features is to produce more substantive reviews of some of the more interesting and topical books being published in academic economics. We have been successful in publishing a number of these, but the process is very time consuming and heavy on the administrative side of things. This is because it takes a lot of time and effort to sign up reviewers for books as large numbers of potential reviewers do not seem prepared to do it and reject the offer. On average, to get three reviewers signed up we typically approach at least ten possible reviewers. In a few cases we have had to abandon the review that we were planning due to lack of success in this regard.

EJ 'Features': November 2009

Feature: James Meade Centenary Conference, July 2007

Introduction: James Meade
David Vines and Martin Weale

Conspicuous Consumption, Inconspicuous Leisure
KennethJ Arrow and Partha Dasgupta

China’s Exchange Rate Policy, Its Current Account Surplus and the Global Imbalances
W Max Corden

Optimal Design of Means Tested Retirement Benefits
James Sefton and Justin van de Ven

The Meaning of Internal Balance Thirty Years On
Charles Bean

Monetary and Fiscal Policy Interaction: The Current Consensus in the Light of Recent Developments
Tatiana Kirsanova, Campbell Leith and Simon Wren-Lewis

Articles

Richard Disney, Carl Emmerson and Gemma Tellow
What is a Public Sector Pension Worth?

Book Review Feature

Institutions and Economic Performance (Harvard University Press)
Elhanan Helpmann

Yann Algan (CEPREMAP, Paris)
Gilles Duranton (University of Toronto)


EJ Features: February 2010 (Provisional)

Feature: The Integration of Immigrants and Its Consequences

Introduction: Culture Clash or Culture Club? The Identity and Attitudes of Immigrants in Britain
Alan Manning and Sanchari Roy

Immigrants’ Identity, Economic Outcomes and the Transmission of Identity across Generations
Teresa Casey and Christian Dustmann

Do Oppositional Identities Reduce Employment for Ethnic Minorities? Evidence from England
Harminder Battu and Yves Zenou

The Economic Situation of Immigrants and their Children in France, Germany and the UK
Yann Algan, Christian Dustmann, Albrecht Glitz and Alan Manning


Articles

Money and Information in a New Neoclassical Synthesis Framework
Philip Arestis, Georgios Chortareas and John D Tsoukalas

Doctor Behaviour under a Pay for Performance Contract: Treating, Cheating and Case Finding?
Hugh Gravelle, Matt Sutton and Ada Ma


Book Review Feature

Rational Decisions (Princeton University Press)
Ken Binmore

Larry Blume (Cornell University)
Herb Gintis (Santa Fe Institute)

                                                                    - Stephen Machin, October 2009

Economic Journal - Subscriptions

Institutional subscriptions are currently 94.5% renewed compared with the number of subscriptions at the end of 2008. We expect further renewals to be confirmed well into the final quarter of the year.

In addition to the above there are 70 reduced rate institutional subscriptions in China as part of the arrangement with the World Publishing Corporation (WPC) which is based in China and markets selected journals locally at a discounted rate. There were 77 in 2008.

At the end of 2008 2,530 institutions worldwide offered access to the current volume of The Economic Journal as a result of sales of the Wiley-Blackwell Collection of journals to library consortia. The journal was also available in a further 1,546 institutions in the Developing World through philanthropic initiatives enabling low-cost or free access to scholarly research in the poorest countries.

The EJ continues to be available in many thousands of libraries worldwide through databases like EBSCO and JSTOR which provide access to back volumes of the journal. 3,369 libraries downloaded articles published in back volumes of the EJ via EBSCO databases in 2008.

As usual we will provide details of circulation throughout 2009 via the various online licences in our Publisher’s Report early next year.

Royal Economic Society: Membership as at 15 September 2009

There are currently 2590 members compared with 3001 at the end of 2008. This represents a renewal rate of 86.3%. We regularly see further growth in membership well into the final quarter - 4% increase in the period October – December 2008, 3% in the period October - December in 2007 and 4.5% in the same period in 2006.




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