STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
The Centralization of Intellectual Control Proceeds Apace
By Staff News & Analysis - March 27, 2013

Nine Facts about Top Journals in Economics … How has publishing in top economics journals changed since 1970? Using a data set that combines information on all articles published in the top-5 journals from 1970 to 2012 with their Google Scholar citations, we identify nine key trends. First, annual submissions to the top-5 journals nearly doubled from 1990 to 2012. Second, the total number of articles published in these journals actually declined from 400 per year in the late 1970s to 300 per year most recently. As a result, the acceptance rate has fallen from 15% to 6%, with potential implications for the career progression of young scholars. Third, one journal, the American Economic Review, now accounts for 40% of top-5 publications, up from 25% in the 1970s. – National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. 18665

Dominant Social Theme: The free flow of scientific information is important to the progress Western society is making.

Free-Market Analysis: We stopped the excerpt above at number three because it is perhaps the most important observation. One of the reasons for the global warming controversy was because several years ago it came out that a single scientific journal was basically controlling the debate – at least as far as the "profession" and the mainstream media was concerned.

These controllers were pro-global warming and were apparently restricting or discarding articles with another point of view. When both sides of an argument are not aired, frustration builds, rancor expands and, more importantly, scientific accuracy is sacrificed.

The centralization – and thus control – of the free flow of scientific information is much constrained when it cannot be disseminated. This little summary excerpted above is actually quite important because it reminds us again that this is an ongoing problem. Here is more:

Fourth, recently published papers are on average 3 times longer than they were in the 1970s, contributing to the relative shortage of journal space.

Fifth, the number of authors per paper has increased from 1.3 in 1970 to 2.3 in 2012, partly offsetting the fall in the number of articles per year.

Sixth, citations for top-5 publications are high: among papers published in the late 1990s, the median number of Google Scholar citations is 200.

Seventh, the ranking of journals by citations has remained relatively stable, with the notable exception of the Quarterly Journal of Economics, which climbed from fourth place to first place over the past three decades.

Eighth, citation counts are significantly higher for longer papers and those written by more co-authors.

Ninth, although the fraction of articles from different fields published in the top-5 has remained relatively stable, there are important cohort trends in the citations received by papers from different fields, with rising citations to more recent papers in Development and International, and declining citations to recent papers in Econometrics and Theory.

In much of this information, we can see – as explained above – that information is being inevitably narrowed and even alternative viewpoints are becoming harder to come by.

That this should be happening in the field of economics is especially discouraging and surely should help explain why Austrian free-market economic analysis is under-represented in the field.

Despite this discouraging trend there is hope. We refer specifically to what we call the Internet Reformation. This Internet-based free-market information revolution is bypassing these academic journals; eventually, they are going to have to adapt, not the other way round.

After Thoughts

Ironically, the layperson's perspective will drive academic perspectives. It is already happening, in our view.

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