Published on Development Impact

Weekly links Jan 8: The 2020 surge in journal submissions, R code reproducibility, many curves and the same data, and more…

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·       The Africa Gender Innovation Lab is extending the deadline to March 1st for its call for Expressions of Interest to projects interested in partnering on an impact evaluation of interventions designed to improve rural women's economic empowerment in Nigeria.

·       Some data on publishing and papers written during 2020: I had thought we might see a decrease in papers written this past year, but data from several journals indicates an increase. Of course, papers submitted this year were largely started several years ago, so we might see a reduction in a year or two (or five if doing fieldwork!). Moreover, while there has been some early looks of submission numbers by gender, the data don’t exist to look at how submission numbers have changed for those with young kids or other care responsibilities versus those without. So these overall trends could mask a lot of heterogeneity in research production:

First, some stats from the AEA business meeting (available here for attendees of the ASSA meetings)

o   The AER received 2,029 submissions in 2020 vs 1,927 in 2019, with 37% desk-rejected and a median decision time of 90 days for papers sent to referees – the editor’s report notes the big surge in submissions came in the early days of lockdown, with an increase of about 20% in March, April and May. The acceptance rate was 5-7%.

o   AER Insights reports 775 submissions, and an acceptance rate of 4-5%, a median decision time of 47 days for papers sent for review, and desk-rejection rate of 36%.

o   AEJ Applied received 818 new submissions in 2020, also a new record for the journal. Acceptance rate was 5%, 59% are desk-rejected. AEJ Policy also reports submissions increased 15% in 2020.

o   The Job Openings for Economists reports total new jobs for economists fell 30% between 2019 and 2020, with a 28% drop in the number of jobs posted for the main job market cycle.

The QJE reports a 14% increase in submissions in 2020 compared to 2019, for a total of 2,181 submissions, of which 64% were desk-rejected, and a median time to first decision of 38 days for those sent to referees. The JEEA reports an 11% increase in submissions in 2020, for a total of 1,252 submissions, of which 60% were desk-rejected and median time to first decision of 72 days for those papers sent for review. Project CAPER looks at the gender composition of NBER and CEPR working papers up to Oct 2020, finding a small decrease in the share of women to total authors from 23.6% in 2019 to 22.6% in 2020, and that this reduction seems to come from mid-career women being less likely to work on pandemic-related issues. Meanwhile, cheers to Arun Agrawal, who is stepping down as editor of World Development after 8 years. He reports that since 2013, the journal has received 17,500 submissions, sent 6,500 for review, and published 2,367 papers! One statistic in the comments that reiterates how hard the job of an editor is – on average they send 10 invites to referees per paper sent for review. This includes revisions, but still reflects many referee requests getting turned down (and that the journal perhaps sends papers back to referees more often than it should – but with so many submissions, perhaps the editors delegate more of the checking of revisions to referees).

·       Datacolada discusses how the R package groundhog can be used to help with R code reproducibility by dealing easily with code updates.

·       Via Andrew Gelman, xkcd on curve-fitting methods and the messages they send.


David McKenzie

Lead Economist, Development Research Group, World Bank

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