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August 24th, 2004

I got an article accepted in a journal today and, if my count is correct[1], it is number 150 for me. Since my first article was published in 1979, that’s an average rate of six a year, with a slowly increasing trend. It’s not a startling rate of output, given that I’ve held research-only jobs for most of those 25 years. Still, by the time you take acccount of rejections, resubmissions and so on, there’s a fair bit of work involved, and not that many people keep up the pace indefinitely.

Because I’ve been active for quite a while, and because my work doesn’t exactly fit the mainstream mould in either policy content or analytical style[2], I’ve accumulated a lot of rejection letters, more than anyone else I know of, in fact. My records aren’t good enough for a complete tally, but I’ve certainly had several hundred rejections – I once got three on one day. Some papers have been rejected half a dozen times or more before finding a home. This isn’t quite as bad as it sounds. Most high-grade journals in economics have rejection rates of 90 per cent or more, which implies the average paper must be rejected pretty often.

On a happier note, I’ve covered a lot of different topics and used a range of different approaches to economics, more than most of my colleagues. For example, I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who’s published in both the Journal of Mathematical Economics and the (institutionalist) Journal of Economic Issues

fn1. I publish a fair bit of policy stuff, and there’s sometimes a bit of doubt as to whether the resulting paper counts as “refereed”. I usually err on the side of caution, but there are always marginal cases.

fn2. A lot of the time, it’s not so much that I’m challenging mainstream orthodoxy in a broad sense as that I don’t like the established way of doing this in some particular subfield, such as principal-agent theory.

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  1. Dave Ricardo
    August 24th, 2004 at 14:49 | #1

    John, most academics seem to specialise more than you do. Do you think the way you have gone about it has on balance helped or hindered your career.

  2. August 24th, 2004 at 15:28 | #2

    Congratulations John. Can any other current Australian academic compare? All strength to your typing fingers and long may you proliferate.

  3. Paul Norton
    August 24th, 2004 at 16:05 | #3

    It sounds as if my getting published last year in an international refereed journal (Environmental Politics) at my first attempt was a case of beginner’s luck! Then again it could reflect the peculiarities of particular disciplines and/or journals.

    I recall reading an article in a refereed biology journal which added to the store of scientific knowledge by communicating the author’s conclusions from observing the behaviour of her two cats in her house and back garden. These profound insights included that cats inhabiting the same backyard don’t mark out individual territories by peeing on their boundaries, but instead excrete their wastes in purpose-dug holes with no territorial significance.

    Another colleague during my postgraduate days at Griffith displayed ooutside her office the front page of a refereed journal article on the physics of decaying froth in heads of beer. Then again, this is precisely the sort of thing which would be encouraged by the contemporary emphasis on commercially focused research.

  4. James Farrell
    August 25th, 2004 at 12:21 | #4

    Congratulations, Captain. Could you tell us which of the 150 are your favourites? Nominate, say, one technical and one non-technical (i.e. accessible to a non-specialist) article. And what paper, written be someone else, would you most like to have written?

  5. derrida derider
    August 25th, 2004 at 22:14 | #5

    You are awesome, John – congratulations.

    An ertswhile colleague of yours once advised me that there is no such thing as an unpublishable paper – you just keep resubmitting the thing in progressively less respected journals until it finds its deserved level of obscurity. What is impressive about your output is not only its enormous volume, but that the median level of respectability of your publishers seems very high.

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