Published on Development Impact

The State of Development Journals 2024: Quality, Acceptance Rates, Review Times, and What’s New

This page in:
Development Impact logo

This is the eighth in my annual series of efforts to put together data on development economics journals that is not otherwise publicly available or easy to access (see 2017201820192020, 2021, 2022, 2023 for the previous editions). I once again thank all the journal editors and editorial staff who graciously shared their statistics with me.

Journal Quality

The most well-known metric of journal quality is its impact factor. The standard impact factor is the mean number of citations in the last year of papers published in the journal in the past 2 years, while the 5-year is the mean number of cites in the last year of papers published in the last 5. As noted in previous years, the distribution of citations are highly skewed, and while the mean number of citations differs across journals, there is substantial overlap in the distributions – most of the variation in citations is within, rather than across journals. We continue to see growth in these impact factors at many journals. The big news this year is that they have decided that you really don’t need three decimal places any more in the impact factors.  I compliment these stats with RePec’s journal rankings which take into account article downloads and abstract views in addition to citations. 



Table 3 then shows two additional metrics, taken from Scimago, which uses information from the Scopus database. The first is the SJR (SCImago Journal Rank), which is a prestige-weighted citation metric – which works like Google PageRank, giving more weight to citations in sources with a relatively high SJR. I’ve included some of the top general journals in economics for comparison. Scimago also provides an H-index which is the number of papers published by a journal  in any year that were cited at least h times in the reference year – so this captures how many papers continue to be influential but as a result, favors more established journals, and ones that publish more articles, that have a larger body of articles to draw upon. 


How many submissions are received, and what are the chances of getting accepted?

Table 4 shows the number of submissions received each year. See previous years posts for statistics before 2019. The total submissions in the 11 journals tracked is almost 10,000 papers (note I received no data from the Review of Development Economics this year so have excluded it).  Total submissions in these journals are up 7.7% over last year, although not quite at the 2020 peak.


At most journals the number of submissions has either leveled off or fallen since a peak in 2020-21. World Development had the largest 2020 peak when they had a special call for a variety of short papers on COVID-19, but perhaps the combination of people sending off lots of papers during the pandemic and then being a little slower to start new projects has halted the rapid growth somewhat.

·       The newish World Development Perspectives already received 532 submissions last year, more than many long established development journals.

·       The Review of Development Economics has seen very rapid growth in submissions. I only started collecting stats for it last year, but the editors note that in 2015 they received about 450 submissions, and this has now grown to more than 1,500 last year.

Table 5 shows the total number of papers published in each journal. 782 papers were published in 2023, so that’s a lot of development research (even though less than 1 in 10 of the submitted papers and down slightly on the 811 papers published in 2022). I’ve noted in previous years that some of the journals have been able to flexibly increase the number of articles published as their submission numbers have risen, reducing publication lags as well. 


The ratio of the number of papers published to those submitted is approximately the acceptance rate. Of course papers are often published in a different year from when they are submitted, and so journals calculate acceptance rates by trying to match up the timing. Each journal does this in somewhat different ways. Hence Economia-Lacea reports a 0% acceptance rate for 2023 since none of the papers submitted in 2023 have yet been accepted, although some are still under review.  Table 6 shows the acceptance rates at different journals as reported by these journals. Of course the number and quality of submissions varies across journals, and so comparing acceptance rates across journals does not tell you what the chances are of your particular paper getting accepted is at these different journals.  


How long does it take papers to get refereed?

In addition to wanting to publish in a high quality outlet, and having a decent chance of publication, authors also care a lot about how efficient the process is. Table 7 provides data on the review process (see the previous years’ posts for historic data). The first column shows the desk rejection rate, which averages 73%. Column 2 uses the desk rejection rates and acceptance rates to estimate the acceptance rate conditional on you making it past the desk rejection stage. On average, about one in three papers that gets sent to referees gets accepted, with this varying from 12% to 63% across journals.

The remaining columns give some numbers on how long it takes to get a first-round decision. The statistics “Unconditional on going to referees” includes all the desk rejections, which typically don’t take that many days. The average conditional on going to referees is in the 3-5 month range. The last two columns then show that at most journals, almost all papers have a decision within 6 months – so in my opinion, you should feel free to send an enquiry if your paper takes longer than that. 


Do revisions typically get sent back to the referees or handled by the editor?

Another factor that can make a big difference in how long it takes to publish a paper is whether editors send revised papers back to referees, or instead reads the response letter and revision themselves and just makes a decision on this basis. This is something that the AER and AEJ Applied have been trying to do more and more, with only 25% of revisions at the AEJ Applied going back to referees. In my own editing at WBE, I send fewer than 5% of revisions back to referees. This year I asked the different journals what their approaches were. Many do not systematically track this, but offered some approximations:

·       Journal of Development Economics: approximately 60% of revisions go back to referees, although 0% for the short papers (see below)

·       Development Policy Review: only 10% of revisions go back to referees.

·       Journal of Development Effectiveness: 7.7% were sent back to referees

·       Journal of Development Studies: not tracked, but less than 20% go back to referees

·       Journal of African Economies: 52% are sent back to referees

·       Economia: 70% go back to referees.

·       EDCC: does not track this, but first revisions are usually sent back to referees.

·       World Development, World Development Perspectives, WBRO, and WBER do not track this, and results may vary a lot by editor.

Updates on the JDE Short Paper and Registered Report Tracks

The Journal of Development Economics has two other categories of papers that differ from other development journals:

·       The short paper format has proved popular. There were 148 submissions in 2023 (about 8% of total submissions), and 21 short papers were accepted. These papers follow the model of AER Insights, ReStat, etc in which papers are either conditionally accepted or rejected, and so any revisions are minor and are not sent back to referees.

·       The JDE registered reports had 19 stage 1 acceptances in 2023, and 1 stage 2 acceptance, reflecting a lag from COVID when there were not many new submissions. They have a website which tracks the stage 1 and stage 2 registered reports, but some of the data was lost when transitioning the website, so if you have a registered report accepted that is not listed there, please let the journal know.


Other Development Journal News

Finally, I asked the journals if they had any other major news or changes to report. Here are what they wanted to share:

·       At EDCC, Prashant Bharadwaj has replaced Marcel Fafchamps as editor. Thanks to Marcel for 10 years at the helm. The journal is one of the few development journals with a submission fee ($50), but offers a fee waiver to referees who have submitted a timely report in the year prior to submission.

·       Other editorial changes are Ganeshan Wignaraja replacing Colin Kirkpatrick as co-editor at Development Policy Review, and Marie Gardner and Ashu Handa taking over from Manny Jimenez at the Journal of Development Effectiveness.

·       The Journal of Development Effectiveness notes they are implementing a set of actions to raise awareness about transparency, ethics and equity in research, and to address power imbalances among HIC-L&MIC research teams. The editors note they are particularly concerned with research involving primary data collection in an L&MIC where there is no author from an institution in that country. For articles submitted to JDEff that fall into this category, they will require the authors to complete a short author reflexivity statement that will be published along with the article. The statement will explain the contribution of each author per Taylor & Francis authorship criteria, which are consistent with the criteria established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. Authors will be asked to explain why there is no contributing author from the study location, specifically, whether any team member based in the study location made a ’significant contribution to conception, study design, execution or acquisition of data,’ and if so, why they were not subsequently invited to review the manuscript and take responsibility for its contents. And for work involving randomized controlled trials or interviews with vulnerable groups, authors will also be asked to answer a set of questions about research ethics. Final manuscript acceptance and publication in JDEff will be based on the scientific quality of the work as well as an assessment of whether the work was conducted in an equitable, inclusive and ethical manner.

Finally, thanks again to all the editors for all the time and effort they devote to improving the quality and visibility of development research. As you can see, they have a lot to deal with!



David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

Join the Conversation

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly
Remaining characters: 1000