How much would you pay for publication at the AER?

From the EJMR
"I have a new paper that I consider my best work. For a variety of reasons, the marginal return professionally for this paper is very small for me. But I think it has an excellent shot a top journal, I would estimate 1/3 at the AER (I have published there before). So I am offering it for sale. Here are the details: 
1. This paper is not yet posted on my website. It has not been circulated and I have not yet presented it. 
2. The paper is applied micro although I will sell it to anyone. 
3. Email bids to Use a fake account and make sure to send no revealing information. 
4. Your bid is for an AER or QJE. If it ends in Restud, you pay 65%. If it ends in the Journal of Labor Economics, Journal of Public Economics, or EJ, you pay 35%. Other journals are negotiable. You can choose the submission path as long as it starts with one of the top journals. 
5. I will contact the winning bid (or highest real bid) to arrange an in person meeting in Philly at the meetings. We will never leave a paper trail.
6. Half of payment is due with a revise and resubmit. I will also make the needed changes. The final half is due with final acceptance. 
7. Spare me any discussion of the ethics here. I am dead serious and I will not be commenting further on this thread."
Is this a troll, an experiment or is it for real? This was the focus of the discussion behind the quoted thread on the EJMR page (btw I recommend this page to my readers - check it out, it a forum that has info on the econ job market, conferences, journal submission timing etc.). Alex Tabarrok estimates a price of $50,000 for publishing at a top journal like AER or QJE, particularly for someone who's a new PhD graduate and wants to move up the academic ladder quickly. I would say, seriously overpriced! And definitely not worth the risk. 

The ethical ramifications are useless to discuss, as the author suggests. Intellectual property is a good like any other and can be bought and sold at the owner's will. But the real question is how big of a market are we talking about? Is the demand for top-tier papers really that big? At first glance one would say definitely; academics need it for their careers (some people were commenting they were only a few top-journal papers away from tenure at their Universities), and after all who wouldn't want their work being published at the American Economic Review or Quarterly Journal of Economics? For those unaware, these are the top journals in economics in the world, alongside Econometrica and Journal of Political Economy - on various rankings these always come on top (see here, here or here). However, if you think more thoroughly the question is how would one get away with this? I mean, to publish a random (brilliant) paper that has nothing to do with the research you did so far in your career, and even more, to try and use it for tenure? I don't think this would quite qualify. One would easily get caught, meaning that your net return would be significantly negative (you paid money AND you lost your academic credibility). Even if you're at the beginning of your academic career it would be rather suspicious if you all of a sudden produce a top-tier paper in a subject you did noting on before. People will be able to see your PhD topic, after all. So this pretty much narrows it down to those who did research on applied micro. But then the question is, what kind of research? Applied micro is a very broad category and is rather vague. I can think of a lot of issues that can be classified as applied micro. The probability that the paper for sale corresponds to the field of research one of the people who saw this "ad" did is actually really small (I can calculate it but I'd have to use too many assumptions - e.g. that every economist who published a topic in applied micro has seen it, then I'd have to narrow down the definition of applied micro, and so on). This also means that the market for this paper is very, very small.

Anyway, I suggest someone pays close attention to applied micro papers published at the AER or QJE in the next year or so. Perhaps this was the initial incentive of the seller? To foster greater scrutiny on the papers that get published in these journals. Maybe, maybe not. We may never know...


  1. this is a troll, it has to one has "small returns" on an AER paper publication


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