Another Irritating Practice

6 December 2006 at 1:14 am 4 comments

| Nicolai Foss |

OK — here I go again: Another jeremiad related to the institutions of publishing in the learned journals (for other O&M jeremiads on this subject, see here, here, here, here, and here).

Recently, I received a paper from two very bright assistant professors at one of the top Euro BSchools.  They happily informed me that their paper had now been accepted for a top journal, and that, knowing that I took an interest in the issues that the paper dealt with, they were happy to forward the accepted paper to me.  

The paper was a fine piece of research, but there were several things in it that I disagreed with.  So I replied to them that I appreciated that they had sent me the paper, but that I would have strongly preferred to have been able to read it in an earlier version which would have given me the chance of making comments that could influence the paper, and that one could question the soundness of distributing an accepted paper that would soon appear in print anyway. 

This is far from the first time this has happened. I guess I have received at least twenty papers in this way over the last two to three years.  However, I am not sure I understand the rationale of this irritating practice.  Is it the increasing tendency to not go public with papers that are less than perfectly polished, presumably because of reputational concerns? The social cost of this clearly is that many valuable comments that could have been made on the relevant paper aren’t.  Or, is it an attempt to establish ownership to research results in the period before the paper is eventually published? Surely that could be done by posting a less perfectly polished paper on a working paper site.

Entry filed under: - Foss -, Ephemera.

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4 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Joseph Mahoney  |  6 December 2006 at 9:57 am

    Dear Nicolai,

    In your case, I suggest this practice has increased because you are now one of the major scholars in the Strategic Management field, and folks want you to think well of their work — perhaps you might even cite them !!

    Young scholars are looking for your approval. Heck, when I send you a paper, I am looking for your approval.

    Take care,
    Joe Mahoney

  • 2. Nicolai Foss  |  6 December 2006 at 10:26 am

    Hmmmm. You may be right. I guess this was too much of a jeremiad then.

  • 3. C. Grammich  |  6 December 2006 at 10:47 am

    More of what Joseph Mahoney said. If they had sent it to you beforehand, then they would have been assuming you were able to read and comment on it in a timely manner for their submission. They might have thought that presumptuous.

  • 4. Peter Klein  |  6 December 2006 at 11:24 am

    An interesting side note. In the past, unpublished working papers tended to die on the vine after the paper was published. Today, thanks to the Google cache, SSRN, WoPEC, etc., preliminary drafts can live on forever. How does this affect researchers’ incentives to post working papers? It is easier to get useful feedback than ever before. On the other hand, the cost of making a mistake — i.e., circulating, prematurely, a weak paper — is higher. It’s not clear which effect outweighs the other.

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