Finance: Research, Policy and Anecdotes

The uproar about EJMR

We economists keep getting into headlines for the wrong reasons – if it is not for having missed a crisis or for seemingly squabbling over the effects of Brexit, then it is for a sexist culture.  Following the publication of Alice Wu’s paper, reported in the NYT, there has been an intensive discussion on the under-representativeness of women in the economics profession, but also more broadly about the culture in our profession.

 

I have never contributed to EJMR but do check in once in a while, mostly to see whether my name or that of my current or previous employers pops up. So far, I have been lucky and not been subject to any of the hateful threads started by what can only be bored and/or frustrated PhD students.  However, one of my PhD students has been subject to unfounded accusations of plagiarism and another PhD student in Tilburg has been subject to sexist remarks.

 

My main problem with this web-site is that while good and important information is being shared (sometimes in the form of gossip), there are still too many threads, which either target people for all the wrong reasons or just rehash the same silly arguments over and over again (such as the repetitive threads about the quality and standards of the Review of Finance).

 

I do not believe that EJMR should be shut down, but it certainly needs a lot more rigorous monitoring – obviously, I understand that this would be a thankless job, unpaid with not even intellectual gratification.  There are, however, examples of discussion boards that do allow for useful information exchange and friendly banter – my favorite example (not surprising given my life-style) is www.flyertalk.com (where I do contribute once in a while).

 

As pointed out by James Campbell and others  the discussions on EJMR are the symptom for a deeper problem in our profession, with a hierarchical structure of journals and schools and underrepresentation not only of women but different ethnic minorities (especially in the US), but also a certain degree of aggressiveness among academic economists. I share his view that more can be done to “bring together” the profession and bring down barriers of arrogance and clubiness.   However, there are also small steps that we can do. As previously reported, I was part of a great workshop in Bonn recently, “teaching” post-docs and assistant professors from German universities on how to publish in finance journals.  I was subsequently asked to give a seminar on the same topic at the Bank of England, where there are lots of very bright economists, often with PhDs from top universities but with limited experience in the publication game, for no fault of their own (as they are too busy saving the UK economy from the Brexit damage).  I think a lot can be done on a more informal level!

 

I do not think it makes any sense whatsoever to “ban” EJMR, rather the profession should learn from it.  Alice Wu’s paper is a great start and holds an impressive mirror up to our profession.  Rather than getting upset, we should see this as opportunity!