Heterodox Economics Newsletter

Issue 323 February 19, 2024 web pdf Heterodox Economics Directory

During the last weeks, I have received the sad news that the full editorial board of the Journal of Economic Surveys has stepped down from their positions. This is sad, because the Journal of Economic Surveys not only provided a great service to the profession by publishing highly interesting review papers and meta-analyses, but was also an established journal open for submissions with a heterodox background.

However, the development leading to this decision is actually even more saddening. As I have been told, current editors have been alienated by the publisher, due to the latter's demands to massively increase the volume of published papers. To publish as many papers as possible is thereby a long-standing trend (for at least two decades or so) in the predatory publishing business, where authors are charged high fees to get their papers accepted. It is quite evident that such a business model profits from greater turnaround and, at the same time, shocking to see that an established publisher like Wiley moves in such a direction.

As the request to increase turnaround in many instances implies a request to reduce the quality of published papers, such demands are an immanent threat to the integrity of related journals, which provides a compelling case for how the race for ever higher profits can undermine the intrinsic quality of the underlying products. Moreover, and also more alarmingly, such concerns cannot even be resolved by established editors resigning as the property rights on the journal itself – and its track record of publications – in many cases belongs to the publisher, which typically reserves the right to appoint new editors for the respective outlets. As so often property rights and associated issues of power and control are crucial, eventually.

It is also important to note that requests like the one received by the Journal of Economic Surveys are no isolated instances, but are applied quite systematically. Even highly reputed journals within Wiley's portfolio – like the Journal of Political Philosophy or Philosophy & Public Affairs have witnessed a similar demand, which in the case of the former also led to a large number of resigning editors and editorial board members (see here and here). Along these lines, we have to suspect that also other journals relevant to heterodox research within Wiley's portfolio – like Metroeconomica or the Review of Income and Wealth– are potentially under threat.

While I see no quick fix for these concerning developments, the move of the original editors of the Journal of Political Philosophy to create a reincarnation in a non-profit environment (see here for some details) seems legitimate to me. Indeed, I would tend to agree with those empirical assessments that identify non-profit publishers to deliver more 'value-for-money' than commercial publishers (e.g. here). Most, probably the ideal organizational form for scientific publishing would be large coops that marry economics of scale in production and distribution with sensibility for the intrinsic requirements of scientific discourse. Such a combination would also allow for better justifying the huge amount of implicit subsidies the publishing industry receives (see here).

All the best,

Jakob

PS: Ironically, even the supposedly pro-market AEA follows a related model...

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