Evolving Standards for Academic Publishing: A q-r Theory
Author contact info: Glenn Ellison Department of Economics Massachusetts Institute of Technology 50 Memorial Drive, E52-380A Cambridge, MA 02142-1347 Tel: 617/253-8702 Fax: 617/253-1330 E-Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org This paper develops a model of evolving standards for academic publishing. It is motivated by the increasing tendency of academic journals to require multiple revisions of articles and by changes in the content of articles. Papers are modeled as varying along two quality dimensions: q and r. The former represents the clarity and importance of a paper's main ideas and the latter its craftsmanship and polish. Observed trends are regarded as increases in r-quality. A static equilibrium model in which an arbitrary social norm determines how q and r are weighted is developed and used to discuss comparative statics explanations for increases in r. The paper then analyzes a learning model in which referees (who have a biased view of the importance of their own work) try to learn the social norm from observing how their own papers are treated and the decisions editors make on papers they referee. The model predicts that social norms will gradually but steadily evolve to increasingly emphasize r-quality.