World Bank Policy Research Working Papers

World Bank Policy Research Working Papers-37
Working papers are the research equivalent of sweatshirts with pizza stains on them, but we wear them on our first date with our audience.It is common practice in economics to publish working papers.At least, the peer-review process brings a degree of credibility to the whole process and makes it harder for people to summarily dismiss findings they don’t want to believe.

Working papers are the research equivalent of sweatshirts with pizza stains on them, but we wear them on our first date with our audience.It is common practice in economics to publish working papers.At least, the peer-review process brings a degree of credibility to the whole process and makes it harder for people to summarily dismiss findings they don’t want to believe.

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I’ll grant you, a fair bit of that period may be due to the fact that the authors sat on a resubmission, but it is common to wait 4-5 months for a first decision, and then similar times for subsequent decisions on revise and resubmits.

But, research findings are public goods and working papers are a way to get this information out to parties who can benefit from the new information while the paper is under review.

But, that assumes that the findings are ready for public consumption at this preliminary stage.

By preliminary, I mean papers that have not yet been seriously reviewed by anyone familiar with the methods and the specific topic.

See the recent comments on Blattman’s blog, which make it look far from clear that giving up on double-blind peer-review is a good idea).

But, do the benefits of making these findings public before peer-review outweigh the costs? In economics, publication lags, even for journals that are fast, can be long: it is not uncommon to see articles that state: Submitted December 2007; accepted August 2010.

By the time your paper is published, it is a pretty good paper – your little masterpiece.

The publication will cause an uptick in downloads, but still, for many, all they’ll remember is the sweatshirt, and not the sweat that went into the masterpiece. But, unless we can alert everyone that there is a new version of a paper (AND make them read it and understand the changes since the first draft), this is of little use.

The newer version, other than for a few dedicated followers of the topic or the author, will not be read by many.

They will cling to their beliefs based on the first draft: first impressions matter.

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