Friday, 4 July 2014

Fear, Folly, Financial Crises

The UBS Center for Economics in Society at the University of Zurich has just published a small summary paper of mine on the history of financial crises. Here is the abstract:

those damned journals...

I am sure we have all been there. You go to a conference, and you have a beer or two with your friends. Someone starts to talk about journals. Turnaround times, in particular. If it isn't the QJE, everyone will soon start to lament just how damned slow they are. 5 months? 9 months? What's up with these guys? Well, there are some really, really bad cases. If you submit to a particular journal we all know, say, you often can forget about it for a few years. Literally. Something that has to do with the editors and the editorial office, surely. But for most journals, there is a second factor that very few people like to talk about -- because it is by and large about the same people who do the complaining: the reviewers, who as a group, are identical with the submitters.

As a journal editor of Explorations in Economic History, this is what I see all to often (see the chart): A paper comes in. It is assigned to 3 referees the next day. Within 2 days, 2/3 referees have said yes. But watch referee 3: no response on June 6. A reminder on June 16. Another reminder on June 23. Finally, on June 27 (22 days after the initial invitation, the reviewer has the kindness to decline with a one-liner "sorry overcommitted"). I am sure. It's a senior colleague. So senior, as a matter of fact, that he is retired... you get the picture. Incompetence? Sloppiness? Laziness? Indifference to the publications of junior scholars, given that this paper is RIGHT at the heart of his research interests? Who knows.

So next time you feel like moaning about the journals and turnaround times...don't ask what journals should do for you, ask what you have been doing for the journals. Perhaps ask yourself if you are doing all you can to keep things running smoothly (in this particular case, we'll probably be able to proceed with 2 referees, which is why I didn't assign an alternate by June 14, say - but this could have looked very different, especially since there aren't that many appropriate referees in many subfields).