Working Papers and Paper Submissions

2 June 2006 at 1:42 pm 2 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

I have noted that people who present papers at conferences here in DK or at the research center I direct increasingly refuse to have their papers uploaded.  This is more prevalent among US presenters (than Euro presenters) and more prevalent among management presenters (than econ presenters).

Unlike this blogger (but certainly like my co-blogger) some people will upload only brilliant, perfectly polished papers. Depending on the job market situation, people may be more or less reluctant to upload papers that may not contribute to their reputation for producing high quality, highly polished research. However, that is arguably only part of the explanation.

Another explanation is that a number of the leading journals request that papers not be uploaded on working paper sites and the like while they are under submission. For example, the Academy of Management Review requests that working papers that are posted on a website "be taken down during the review process."

Obviously this is done to protect the double-blind system. Many reviewers routinely google the title of the paper they are sent by a journal to see if it has been written by friends, and hence should receive a favorable, or has been written by foes, and hence should be quashed.

One question, however, is whether it works. Many of the papers that end up in the top management journals have surely been presented at, say, the Academy of Management Meetings or at department seminars (with the same titles as the later submitted versions). Many peers will know what research a well-known scholar is doing at the moment.  Note that AMR only requests that the working paper itself be taken down; the title and the authors may presumably still be there.

Another (but obviously related) question is whether the practice is socially optimal.  Much dissemination of knowledge takes place through downloadable working papers. Perhaps this way of disseminating knowledge is more important than disseminating knowledge through the journals. What the journals seem to do is first and foremost to certify a given piece of research in terms of it meeting certain requirements.

So, what do you think out there? Does it work? Does it make sense (i.e., is it an efficient practice)? Or is just silly?

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Ephemera.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Bo Nielsen  |  2 June 2006 at 6:06 pm

    I guess there is another way of looking at it: once you upload your work as a working paper it is published and hence presumably you have established intellectual property rights of this idea etc. Of course you run the risk that someone will steal the idea and beat you to the journals but in principle you could then prove that your works was published earlier.

    I remember a few years ago when I presented a conceptual piece at one of the main conferences – one year or so later I saw a very similar paper published in a B journal (with quick turnarond time) – I know the author and I know he knows my work and he was present at the conference and even requested a full copy of the paper afterwards. The title was almost identical to my original title! I had not published my paper to a website and thus had no way of proving that my work preceeded his – needless to say there was no reference to my original paper either. This also raises the question of referencing working papers – in my opinion we do not see enough of this – possibly due to a negative bias at the journals?

  • 2. p  |  3 June 2006 at 10:02 am

    A lot of working papers come with a caveat not to cite or distribute them. I’ve never understood that… am I just supposed to forget I ever read it?

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