In this article I will argue that perfectionist journal editors are a direct mechanism for the production of research and research literature.
- What do I mean by editorial perfectionism?
- Journals prefer to take quality articles, and quality articles are costly to make.
- Sometimes these judgements on quality are subjective or otherwise wrong.
- Journals and editors may discourage the implementation of convenience sampling and research methods where such data and methods are price efficient.
- Journals and editors may prefer quality over quantity, where such allocation may be efficient neither for journal circulation nor for general advancement in the field of interest.
- Editors may also prefer a variety of other factors which they consider to be signals of quality but which in fact are not. They may also reject good research due to technical, frivolous, or subjective reasons which may not have prevented such research
- Journal editors may suffer a bit of a calculation problem due to the centrality of their position. That is not particularly to do with perfectionism, although it may multiply the costs of perfectionism through tight coupling.
- What do I mean by malproduction?
- Malproduction can refer to overproduction, underproduction, or misproduction, where misproduction refers to the kind of production rather than the quantity.
- In this case I am invoking malproduction to refer to underproduction and misproduction.
So tie it all together: The main thrust of the claimed mechanism is that editorial perfectionism creates a costly barrier to entry. In addition, there may be some misproduction in kind due to personal preferences of an editor who has quite a bit of power due to the centrality of their position.
Finally, there are some delayed effects:
- The barrier to entry cost acts like a minimum wage, stunting development of junior researchers and benefiting those already in the cartel.
- Mediocre journalists may never flourish to the level of productivity they might have if they were published.
- Universities, policymakers, and private industry all receive skewed signals of quality if they measure by publication, which they often due. It will appear as though a minority of researchers are demigods and most researchers are serfs, but the reality of the fact is that a slight edge in productivity yields huge gains in publishing under a system of editorial perfection.
- Skewed signals mean further malproduction.
- B-quality researchers are paid as F-quality and therefore the incentive to become a researcher weakens.
- A-quality researchers are overpaid and soak up much government and non-government grant money, therefore some dead-weight loss occurs.
- Research becomes an illiquid market and is therefore subject to volatility.
- In particular, the non-price volatility of research quality is a problem.
- We see in the literature a lack of replication papers, which is a critical sort of research but it tends to come from B-quality researchers.
- Eventually the world will collapse, etc, etc
Actually I’m quite the optimist about these sorts of market imperfections. Traditional journal publishing, as a market imperfection, will adapt or die. We already see it being displaced a bit by the rise of open research. Dare I say even things like Stack Exchange and blogs are substituting in for traditional journal consumption.