Economists and manifestos

I’ve had a few conversations over the past few weeks about how extremely long the academic publishing cycle is, particularly for economists. Combined with the lack of cohesive response to the financial crisis and 2010’s crisis of conscience at the AEA meetings regarding disclosure of funding sources, economists aren’t looking so good at the moment.

To address at least one of these concerns, a group of economists has put together a Manifesto for Economic Sense, which essentially calls on the fiscal and monetary policy-making bodies of the United States and Europe to kick things into high gear in order to end  “massive suffering” being inflicted. A rather impressive list of economists has signed it and though I wouldn’t call it beautiful prose (we’re economists after all), I’m a fan.

In short: The economy is suffering from lack of demand–companies aren’t borrowing or hiring, people don’t have jobs and thus aren’t buying things, which becomes more and more problematic (one person’s spending is another person’s income). Monetary policy is exhausted and fiscal policy is politically motivated and crappy, so let’s agree to focus on facts and push for credible, reasonable economic policy that will promote job growth, confidence and resilience. Sounds good to me.

h/t @JustinWolfers (Again, I don’t do everything he tells me to do!)

Elsevier boycott update

Here is the list of academics who’ve signed on to the Elsevier boycott. I found it today after re-reading something that @LSEImpactBlog had re-tweeted (I hate it when an outlet changes the name of something and I re-read and don’t realize it). But I was also curious about the number of economists who have signed on.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the absolute number is very small. While mathematicians–of whose one own started the call for the boycott–and physicists are signing on in large numbers, only 41 economists have signed it. This represents less than 1% of the 4676 signers. I don’t have numbers, but economics is a pretty large field. I’m fairly certain we represent more than 1% of academics.

The only field with fewer signers is Statistics, with 29.

I’m curious, naturally, about why this is. Are economists worried that a boycott might hurt them more and more risk-averse and thus not signing on? Are we by nature less likely to participate in boycotts? Are we just not paying attention? Is there a belief that the boycott will be unsuccessful? Are we free-riding?

I have a paper with a coauthor that we’ve been working on for awhile. Before the boycott stuff came out, we had discussed where to send it next and an Elsevier journal was on the list. While neither of us has signed the boycott declaration, we have discussed the decision. Whether or not we decide to boycott officially, others’ decisions about whether to boycott will affect our paper’s publication process. More boycotters mean fewer reviewers available, and might lead to less appropriate reviewers (on average). It might mean longer response times as referees decide whether to join the boycott.

Of course, this could all work in our favor, too, as turnaround times could decrease with fewer submissions. But in turn, this could result in the decline of journal importance, if good papers aren’t going to Elsevier journals.

Maybe we just think about things too much…