18 July 2007 at 9:26 am 7 comments

| Peter Klein |

Like most academics I list unpublished papers and projects on my CV. I distinguish between “Completed Working Papers” that can be downloaded and circulated and earlier-stage “Research in Progress.” I try to maintain a narrow definition of the latter, including only papers that are at least partially written or analysis that is at least partially complete. Some colleagues list even earlier-stage projects better described as “wishes and dreams.”

Someone recently asked why I list research in progress. Are these papers the academic equivalent of vaporware — attempts to discourage others from working on these topics by signalling that I have the market cornered?

I don’t think so. Most academics list these papers and projects not to deter entry, but to signal to colleagues — potential collaborators, not potential competitors — what they are working on and interested in. Naming the coauthors can also have a certification effect (like the role played by VCs and banks for startup firms). It is also important to communicate, credibly, to current (and potential) employers that one has a good set of projects in the pipeline. In short, the motives are probably benign

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Institutions.

Is Social Capital Path Dependent? The Nature of the (Nonprofit) Firm

7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. brayden  |  18 July 2007 at 10:43 am

    It’s also an important signal to evaluators of your quality that you have an active agenda. Of course, listing too many works-in-progress might indicate that you’re incapable of finishing anything. That makes one more incentive for only listing works that are within reasonable completion distance.

  • 2. jc  |  18 July 2007 at 8:12 pm

    I’m just finishing dinner – where I get a chance to read the NY Times (we both read at meals at home!). There I find Richard Branson is sponsoring a group called ‘The Elders’. The group includes figures like Mandela, Tutu, Annan, Carter, Yunus, and so forth. Their sense is that global affairs are now too important and pressing to be left to politicians who, as ever, are hostage to the loca ideologies that got them elected in the first place and who, in consequence, cannot really deal with the troubles that are affecting us all – the Palestinian/Israeli conflict and so forth.

    I mention this because what we see with this group is surely something like what the Internet is causing everywhere else. Some call this dis-intermediation. The bottom line is that the accepted channels are being bypassed as outdated and technologically obsolete. Even political fund raising is moving onto the web because the lowered transaction costs vastly increase the size of the market, so to speak.

    Which gets us to our little bit of the world. Why should we not publish our ‘unpublished’ papers on our websites, where those that are interested in what we say can get right to it without the heavy handed apparatus of peer review? Do we really have to depend on our colleagues, those noble souls who volunteer to review for our journals, to tell us what is worth reading when we can surely make up our own minds about what is interesting and what is not – at virtually no expense?

    Perhaps peer review is simply part of an apparatus that (a) allows others to govern our knowledge, and (b) protects the publishers from unwarranted expense and complaints.

    Given the cost of web-publication has dropped to near-zero (at least for us free-riding on others’ investment) surely we can trust our own judgment, and bypass the whole A-journal apparatus. This apparatus, of course, is seriously deficient – given the 2+ year turnaroudn time – in a world in which we can have near-instant feedback through blogs such as this. I can find someone telling me this is rubbish minutes after I hit the ‘submit’ button.

    Why do we need the peer-reviewed publication for any more? Ah, OK I get it. It is all about getting material on our resume that leads to our hiring, promotion and tenure. And who, in this process actually reads the candidate’s materials? So what is functional, as opposed to dysfunctional, about all of this?

    Me, I’ll go for open-ness, instant publication, and having my colleagues and fellow-toilers tell me what I do is nonsense or, with luck, worthy of further work.

  • 3. jonfernquest  |  19 July 2007 at 8:03 am

    Publishing in shorter installments allows for more peer review. Tenure, so-called baronial professorships, and unquestioned authority seem to becoming a lot less common in some disciplines, particularly the more marginal ones.

    If a scholar in some small out of the way field waits to the very end of their career to publish a magnum opus with an all-consuming uber-theory that covers everything but never subjected it to peer review, much less collaboration, they might get hit with a surprise frying pan of criticism by new blood entering the field that they long ignored. I saw this happen once.

    I also remember the last copy of an irreplacable but unpublished (perhaps due to perfectionism) recording of a hill tribe’s oral tradition by a European anthropologist who died a few years back, burnt by the wife of his hill tribe collaborator, because she was angry with him for some reason, probably reading too many books, not earning enough money. I know of another priceless manuscript many people want, but was never published, and now exists in only a few copies, of which I have one, thank goodness. In short, make it infinitely available through the web, but make sure to version it.

    Peer review can be done effectively online, particularly in situations where specialists are spread out all over the world. Sometimes it can almost be like a service an online journal offers writers, who might be unwilling to submit articles because the journal is new and they want to see their article on paper. For example, whoever refereed my last two articles really knew what they were doing and were a great help. More paper will just make my suitcase heavier.

  • 4. Peter Klein  |  19 July 2007 at 8:05 am

    As the discussion has moved to peer review more generally, let me point out some earlier threads that might be of interest:

  • 5. Steve Phelan  |  19 July 2007 at 5:54 pm

    I don’t know if anyone has noticed but I have started a new e-journal called the Strategic Management Review ( that is (puportedly) methodologically and theoretically neutral.

    The question of peer review is a vexing one. I like Tsang and Frey’s as-is review process and I counsel my reviewers to write “developmental” reviews rather than hatchet jobs but legitimacy is a concern.

    Or is it just fear of lacking legitimacy? How many of you on this blog would contribute to a journal with an as-is review process? What other barriers to submitting to a new (online) journal exist (beyond the desire to have every paper in an A or B journal)?

    P.S. The BPS division accepted 269 of 653 submissions this year. I find it hard to believe that all 269 (or 653) will be published in A or B journals – where do all the rest go? :-)

  • 6. JC  |  21 July 2007 at 9:24 am

    Excellent Steve. I had not noticed, but now I have. Congrats. I shall try and steer work, including my own, your way. This is what we need – full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes!

  • 7. Steve Phelan  |  22 July 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Much appreciated, JC!

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