Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Changes at Explorations in Economic History

Kris Mitchener and I are the editors of Explorations in Economic History. Over the last year, we have discussed how to strengthen the journal. Here is a summary of what we came up with:

What’s new at Explorations?


Surveys and Speculations. As a periodic feature, we are reviving S+S. The idea is to combine the style of JEL articles with the more speculative ideas that one might put in a book – producing surveys that can help to guide future research. The emphasis can either be on the survey or the speculation part. The format is flexible, but we would typically expect a length of 4,000 to 8,000 words. If you are interested in contributing a Survey + Speculation article, please approach one of the editors with a one-page outline of what you have in mind.

Article formats. Explorations will publish research articles in two formats – main research articles (for major research advances) and shorter papers. While the length of submissions to all economics and economic history journals has grown, journal space has typically not kept pace. Almost all articles nowadays contain extensive literature surveys, many robustness checks, detailed  historical background descriptions, etc., which, while important, are not always essential for communicating the main point.

We therefore encourage authors to consider submitting short articles. Examples that potentially fit into this category include replication studies, negative results, new methods, and new data. Despite being at the heart of the scientific enterprise, replication studies are often frowned upon in economics and economic history. We believe this is in error. If you (or your students) have performed replication work, and in particular, if you find significant differences with published results or major fragility, this is the category of submission to consider. Negative results, when a well-defined hypothesis was tested in the data and no results were found, are often not published. Our aim is to counteract this tendency by providing an outlet for such studies. Often, the first application of major new research tool does not, in and of itself, constitute a breakthrough. If you are one of the first to use a new tool in economic history, we encourage you to submit a short summary and illustration to the “shorter papers” section. All shorter papers (just like main research articles) can contain additional material which will be published as an online appendix. While a new data source is often essential for publishing in top field journals, it is sometimes not enough. For projects that generated new data, but failed to shift the priors of the profession in a major way, EEH shorter papers provides an outlet. In this way, other scholars can use the dataset in their own work, and the people who have performed this service to the profession are rewarded with a publication – even if their risk-taking didn’t fully pay off.

Paper handling

New and Improved Submission Procedures. We continue to accept submissions in the normal format. In addition, we offer two new ways to submit your paper. First, if you have had your paper considered at another journal, and were rejected, you are free to send us the old reports, ideally with a covering note explaining what happened, in your view, and why you feel the paper still deserves a shot. Second, you can now propose potential reviewers in your covering letter (as well as a suggestions on who should not referee the paper – similar to the lists submitted for tenure cases). This is not a requirement, and the editors can and will make their own choices, either from the list submitted or drawing on other experts. The point is simply – as specialization increases – to use the authors’ own expertise for insight into the right group of scholars to assess a submission.

Desk rejections and revision rounds. These are not new policies at EEH, but we intend to use them more extensively going forward. We feel that is it fairer to the author(s) if papers that are unlikely to make it through the review process are rejected outright, instead of delaying the final outcome by several months. We also feel that multiple revision rounds should be a (rare) exception; if papers have a clear revision path to a publishable paper, we will say so in round 1, and if the paper has not converged after one revision, we are inclined to reject it instead of creating long drawn-out revision processes that may not converge.

Data replication

This is not new; a data replication policy has been in force since the start of the year. Replication is at the heart of the scientific enterprise. Every accepted paper at Explorations has to be accompanied by a full replication data file and computer instructions for producing the relevant statistical output (such as a STATA do-file). We do not expect authors to share all of their data; but the variables used for the tables in the paper have to be available so that results can be checked and alternatives tested.

We hope you will be encouraged to submit – in categories both old and new – at http://www.journals.elsevier.com/explorations-in-economic-history/

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