Reviewing Less—Progressing More” by Matthew Spiegel — RFS Editor

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Posted 11 Mar 2012 in Research

The cur­rent Review of Finan­cial Stud­ies’ edi­tor Matthew Spiegel recently wrote a bril­liant piece for the recent RFS March 2012 edi­tion titled “Review­ing less — pro­gress­ing more”. This edi­to­r­ial piece con­cerns recent and wor­ry­ing trends in the pub­li­ca­tion process of aca­d­e­mic finance (and prob­a­bly other) studies.


Pre­sum­ably, aca­d­e­mic jour­nals exist and pub­lish arti­cles to dis­sem­i­nate new ideas. Some­how that sim­ple goal has been lost. Today, arti­cles appear in print only after a ref­eree is con­vinced that all other alter­na­tive expla­na­tions for its results have been ruled out. In real­ity, no arti­cle can exclude every pos­si­ble alter­na­tive, so this is basi­cally an exer­cise in futil­ity. The cri­te­rion for pub­li­ca­tion should be that once an arti­cle crosses some thresh­old it is good enough to pub­lish. The prob­lem seem­ingly lies in our
inabil­ity to say “good enough.” But this is a prob­lem we can fix.

This is a must read! (I par­tic­u­larly adore the last para­graph on page 8 and its fol­low­ing on page nine…“What if an arti­cle is important—that is, peo­ple read and cite it? In that case, aca­d­e­mics will dis­sect its every aspect. Some will exam­ine the article’s data fil­ters; oth­ers will check for cod­ing errors; still oth­ers will look for miss­ing fac­tors or reverse causal­ity expla­na­tions. The list is end­less. But, that is the point. The list is end­less. Authors, ref­er­ees, and edi­tors can­not even scratch the sur­face. Nor do they have to. The fact that our col­leagues will stress test any impor­tant pub­li­ca­tion means our profession’s received canon of knowl­edge has a self-correcting mech­a­nism built in. We have faith that impor­tant arti­cles are “right” because their results have been tested over and over again in myr­iad ways. Instead of try­ing to pre­empt this by demand­ing authors per­form ever more tests, we should instead just let the aca­d­e­mic process work by pub­lish­ing arti­cles if they are likely to be inter­est­ing. After that, let the pro­fes­sion deter­mine if the author’s con­clu­sions are accurate—or rather, that they are inter­est­ing enough to even make check­ing for prob­lems worthwhile”)

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