Controversy Over JPE Paper on File Sharing
| Peter Klein |
Stan Liebowitz, no stranger to controversy (1, 2), maintains that the Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf paper on file sharing, published last year in the Journal of Political Economy, is fundamentally flawed. Stan submitted a comment (longer version here) to the JPE which was rejected by editor Steve Levitt. Stan believes that Oberholzer-Gee and Strumpf are guilty not merely of sloppiness, but academic dishonesty, and is upset that they refuse to share their data. The German newspaper Handelsblatt has written an article about the controversy. Handelsblatt focuses on Levitt’s decision to ask Strumpf to write a reply and then to use the reply as an anonymous referee report in rejecting Liebowitz’s comment. That doesn’t trouble me as much as the authors’ unwillingness to share the data (and the JPE’s refusal to insist on it). More generally, notes the newspaper:
The impression that procedural standards of economics journals are not particularly strict is widely shared in the profession. Zurich-based economist Ernst Fehr, an associate editor of the top-five journal “Quarterly Journal of Economics” and of “Science” points to a lack of clear rules as to when an editor should recuse himself because of potential prejudice. Science journals also seem to deal more openly with the competition among scientists. “Authors who submit an article to a science journal can say who they do not want to review their article”, praises Fehr, a choice which is typically not given to economists.
One internationally renowned economist, who did not want to be named, expresses the complaint more bluntly: “Little scandals and big scandals are commonplace: editors who publish articles in their own journals, referees or editors who decide about articles submitted by their own doctoral students.”
The pointer is from Craig Newmark, who writes: “Until important empirical results in economics are, as a matter of routine, carefully scrutinized and until they are provably replicable, economics will never get the respect that physics and biology and chemistry get. And that’s a shame.”