Monday, January 30, 2012

Stiglitz on the Great Depression and the Great Recession

Joseph Stiglitz argues that the Great Depression (1930s in the US) and the Great Recession (now in the US) have a common cause in maladjustment to structural change in the economy. In the 1930s it was an overhang of the shift of employment from farming to manufacturing and today from manufacturing to the service sector. It's an interesting thesis. Odd that he omitted some important sectors - retail/wholesale, transport, & government admin from his list of service sectors. Or are many service employees becoming obsolete in advanced economies?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scientific Collaboration Networks

This map is based on 5 years of data from Scopus and maps each joint authorship as a geographical connection. You can see a high resolution image here. This projection onto Google Earth is also pretty cool, though the resolution is no higher.

One thing I found a bit surprising was the prominent position of Brazil on the map. Another interesting thing is how integrated research is in some countries like Turkey where researchers appear to be spread evenly across the country:

Things Scientists Say

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Australian Universities Ranked by Research Income

The chart shows all sources of direct research grants earned by Australian universities in 2010. This includes government, international, and industry funding. As yesterday's post explained there are also research block grants paid by the government that total about 50% of this direct funding. The graph clearly shows why we talk of the Group of Eight universities, which are the equivalent of the US R1 universities or the UK's Russell Group. ANU, Adelaide, and UWA are a lot smaller than the big 5. So if we adjusted for size, income within this group would probably be more equal.

But there is a steep fall off to University of Newcastle. That Newcastle is the highest ranked outside the Go8 is no surprise.

Monday, January 23, 2012

How Does the Australian Government Use the ERA Results?

Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) is the Australian research assessment exercise that is very similar to the British REF. We are currently working on our submission to the 2012 ERA assessment, which is the second assessment following ERA 2010. There has been a lot of discussion of the assessment methods and results but few people seem to know about how these results are being used.

So far the ERA results will be used as part of the method of allocating money in the SRE scheme. Currently SRE is around $150 million of the $1.6 billion of research block grants paid to Australian universities. This number will rise to more than $300 million over the next year. The program is supposed to provide universities with overhead or indirect costs of funded research. Unlike in the US, the Australian Research Council (ARC) and NHMRC doesn't pay universities any overhead payments on grants. These come later through these block grant schemes.

The government released a consultation paper on the method to be used in 2012. Basically, money would be allocated according to the amount of competitive research grants each university earned weighted by some ERA based indicator. They haven't yet released the exact algorithm that will be used.

So by next year about 20% of research block grants will be weighted by ERA derived measures. I expect though that ERA will be used to allocate more of the money in the future.

The Most Rejected Paper?

Is this the most rejected paper in the history of economics?

Powdthavee, N. I Can't Smile Without You: Spousal Correlation in Life Satisfaction", Journal of Economic Psychology, 30(4), 675-689.

Rejected 15 times. I think 4 is pretty much my record. 4 journals, though, not counting revise and resubmits.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Abstract Deadline for Perth IAEE Conference Extended

The submission deadline for the IAEE conference in Perth has been extended till after the IAEE meeting in Kyoto. So if you missed the deadline you now still have a chance to send in an abstract. Together with my collaborators, I've submitted a total of three abstracts. Two are on meta-analysis and the other is based on my foundation seminar at ANU.

The conference organizers report:

"We have had a solid abstract submission response by the initial deadline, and we are processing those submissions straight away. However, the program committee has decided that we will be open to additional submissions until the end of the Kyoto conference. This will not delay our decision and notification process for those received by the deadline, it just allows the opportunity for those who may been caught out by the Holiday Season. We look forward to seeing you all in Perth in June!

If you have not yet downloaded the Abstract Template, please visit our website to download it."

Recent Books on Energy

A former student asked me for suggestions for less academic books that address current energy issues. Here is what I suggested.

First, Vaclav Smil has written a huge number of books on energy. He is maybe a bit pessimistic. I read the global catastrophes book (2008) but he has put out more books since then that look interesting. In particular, this one on energy transitions.

By contrast, Amory Lovins is a huge optimist. We brought him to speak in Australia back in 2000. This looks to be his latest book.

Several recent books are listed in this review in the Chronicle of Higher Education. When I was in the US in October, our taxi driver in Ann Arbor was reading Rifkin's book. We discussed it after he asked me what I do...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

How to Write Economics Papers

Back in 2010 I blogged on John Cochrane's writing tips. Here are the slides from Daniel Hamermesh's presentation on how to publish in a good journal. A lot of it is about how to write papers rather than specifically about getting into good journals. His advice is a bit more traditional than Cochrane's, I think. You can see the full presentation on YouTube.

Crawford School Blogs

I've just linked a Crawford School blog from the Development Policy Centre to my bloglist. Also from the Crawford School, though they don't describe it as a blog, is the East Asia Forum.


As Paul noted in the comments, there is also the Global Water Forum, which is an initiative of of the UNESCO Chair in Water Economics and Transboundary Water Governance at the Crawford School. There are probably more that I don't know about yet. These kinds of blogs and forums are something I am enthusiastic about us using more to complement formal publications and events as well as traditional mentions in the media.

ResearchGate Revisited

Back in 2010 I blogged briefly about ResearchGate. Today, I saw this article in the New York Times heavily featuring the site. I wonder if they sent a press release to the NYT that triggered this article? Anyway, I decided I should set up a profile on ResearchGate. I only managed to find two of my papers via their search engine - both from 2011. I wasn't impressed. I have a unique academic name (No other academic has both these initials together with my surname: D. I. Stern) so it shouldn't be too hard. I found two economists at ANU on the site already. Searches for "environmental economics" and "energy economics" didn't bring up anyone else I knew. So I'm not impressed and won't visit this site very often.

In a follow up to the NYT article, Krugman discusses how things work in economics and how it's changed. Back in 1993 when I was a post-doc at York part of my job was setting up working papers exchanges with other institutions. We'd mail them our papers if they'd mail us theirs. Soon after that, WoPEc, the predecessor of RePEc, got started and I've been involved with that ever since.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Energy Policy and Climate Mitigation in China: The Ideas Motivating Change

Based on reading of government documents and the writings of Chinese academics, Olivia Boyd's ANU masters thesis documents the role of three ideas in driving China's current energy and climate policies:

1. The idea of new energy security that stresses domestic, rather than international, sources of energy insecurity.
2. Green development and growing concern over the environmental and resource constraints on economic growth.
3. Low-carbon leadership, which posits a vision of China’s international political and economic influence based on climate leadership and low-carbon markets.

This is roughly what I have argued are China's motivations - for example in my CRWF 8000 lectures on energy and the environment that I gave in October - but I find a lot of resistance to accepting that China is serious about these issues and I based my view largely on conjecture rather than a close reading of the literature. This thesis stands on much more solid foundations.

I saw this paper on, which I am finding more and more useful as people are posting interesting papers on it that I otherwise wouldn't see.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Be Known by the Company You Keep: Citations - Quality or Chance?

I previously blogged about how highly downloaded working papers lead to higher downloads of other papers in the same series. So I was interested to read that having your paper appear in the same issue of a journal as a highly cited article increases your number of citations. The implication is that weak papers can benefit from being in journals with high impact factors. Another interesting point in this paper is that self-citations help increase citations to a paper. I've suspected that this is true. Advertising your paper by citing it gets more people to be aware of it. But we can't really establish causality here. Maybe better authors just tend to cite themselves more and/or get more opportunities to do so.

Interview with Editor of the Quarterly Journal of Economics

The QJE is currently widely regarded as the top economics journal. It is also well-known for leading the trend towards "desk-rejections", where papers are rejected by the editors without sending them to external referees. This greatly speeds up the process for papers that are obviously not likely to pass the refereeing process. One of my roles at Ecological Economics as associate editor is giving advice about whether to desk reject papers and I think we are desk rejecting more over time.

I found this interview with the editor of the QJE that I thought had some useful tips about submitting papers to top journals. At Ecological Economics, sloppiness won't be an automatic desk reject if the paper looks interesting. We are more likely to throw out papers because the basic thesis makes no sense or the authors do not justify at all what they do. But really bad English that hinders understanding will result in a desk reject too. Unless your English is close to native speaker standard it is worth getting a native English speaker to look over your paper before submission whether for free or for a fee.

Open Access: What's the Big Deal?

There is currently a lot of discussion about open-access to academic literature. A lot of people seem to be really passionate about the issue. I agree with Gans that the fact that much research is publicly funded does not mean that the public should be able to access it free of charge. Though the major commercial journal publishers do seem to have high rates of profit, the services they provide still do have costs. One could argue that these oligopolists need to be regulated, though I think that their profits will not be maintained forever.

But is access to scientific literature so limited that government should be funding or mandating free access? The fact is that it should usually be possible to get a free copy of any article. In economics and in disciplines such as physics, most papers also exist in preprint form available for free (though the NBER still charges $5 a paper for some reason...). If you check out the information on the SHERPA/RoMEO website you'll find that many publishers including Elsevier, allow authors to put a final version of the paper on their institution's website.* Of course, a lot of authors don't do this. But if you don't and could, it seems hypocritical to complain about the lack of open access. And, of course, an increasing number of open-access journals are being published. Finally, most authors will be happy to e-mail you a copy of their paper.

The main issue, apart from the lack of convenience where direct open-access isn't available, would seem to be the archival literature. A lot is included in JSTOR. Their per article fees are lower than commercial publishers but still $10 a paper.

* A lot of these, plus "illegal" copies are available through Google Scholar. The ARC for example mandates publishing through open access or archiving publications in institutional repositories.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


In economics there is a very strong tradition of working papers and journals do not have a problem with a working paper version of the paper (a "preprint") already having been "published". But this can be a real problem in some other disciplines. Putting up a working paper on the web could preclude publication in a refereed journal. Usually, in biology you can assume that a preprint is not OK. For interdisciplinary researchers working out what they are allowed to do in this regard could be a real problem. Fortunately, there is a really useful website called SHERPA/RoMEO that lists journal's policies on preprints and posting of final versions of papers. Information is missing on some journals, but it does provide a huge amount of information on most.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Becoming a Researcher

A great post on becoming a researcher. Well, it's actually titled: "How to find problems to work on", which is something I have found sometimes puzzles non-academics. I don't have 55 things I am working on but I do have a list with about twenty things on it which are papers from very sketchy ideas to papers under review. Probably, a smaller number of things makes sense in economics than in paleontology. Most economists publish less papers. How many things are in your list?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Credibility Intervals for Medical Journals

A paper by Darren Greenwood in BMC Medical Research Methodology estimates confidence intervals for impact factors based on observed fluctuations in the impact factor over time. He comes up with these intervals for journals in research and experimental medicine in 2005:

As you might expect, the credibility intervals * are wider for lower ranked journals. These estimates do not use actual citation data to individual articles, as I did, and Greenwood notes in the article that using such data would further widen the credibility intervals.

It is pretty clear that confidence intervals for impact factors for low ranked journals are high. The providers of these statistics should really provide a measure of precision. I'm surprised that this doesn't seem to be an extensively researched area in bibliometrics.

* Bayesian equivalent to confidence intervals.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Trends in RePEc Downloads and Abstract Views per Paper

A couple of months ago, I reported on trends in RePEc downloads and abstract views per person. As I was commenting on this issue on the RePEc Blog, I thought I'd do a follow on post here. Here are the same trends per paper:

Both are also on a downward trend over time. In my post in November I suggested a number of reasons that might explain the trends in per person terms. The number of papers per registered member is unchanged over recent years. So that rules out any explanations about there being fewer papers per person to download as RePEc grows. Here are possible explanations for the per paper trends here:

1. The average quality of papers is declining as more working paper series are added from lower quality institutions.

2. Too much supply relative to demand. Economists can only read so many papers.

3. The average paper is getting older and older papers will be downloaded less.

4. People are downloading more papers through services like Google Scholar, bypassing RePEc servers. This might be supported by the recent decline in total downloads and abstract views on RePEc that I mentioned back in November and Christian hinted at today.

I suspect it is a bit of each of these. If you have any ideas about how to test these hypotheses let me know!

5 Year Impact Factor for the Journal of Economic Growth

Following yesterday's post on the 2 year impact factor for the Journal of Economic Growth I tried to compute the 5 year factor. According to Journal Citation Reports it's 3.467 but I came up with 3.283 with a standard deviation of 0.52. It's not unusual apparently to not be able to reproduce the exact impact factors published in the JCR. Anyway, the 95% confidence interval is from 2.25 to 4.32.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wayback in 1997

My homepage from the relatively early days of the World Wide Web. A lot of the links do work. My first web page would have been in 1995 but that is no longer accessible. The current version is here. You'll notice that this page has something in common with the 1997 homepage.

Standard Errors of Impact Factors

A few times recently I've seen it claimed on the web that there is no correlation between journals ISI impact factors and the number of citations that papers published in them get. On the face of it, this sounds a priori silly. The 2 year impact factor for 2010 is the average number of citations that articles published in a journal in 2008 and 2009 got in 2010 in the Web of Science. The relationship could be weak but it's unlikely to be zero. I've checked this for my own journal articles and the correlation between Article Influence Score and citations per year is 0.20.

A different way to look at this is to ask what is the standard error of the estimated impact factor? I decided to compute this for the Journal of Economic Growth. This journal has a reasonably high impact factor - 2.458 in 2010 - and only publishes twelve articles a year, which makes it easy to compute. Here are the number of citations each paper published in the previous two years got in 2010:

As you can see, half the papers got 1 or 0 citations. This doesn't necessarily mean they are duds, maybe they were published near the end of 2009 or are slow to gain popularity. The top three papers got 13, 10, and 8 citations respectively and the fourth only 4. The standard deviation of the mean is 0.69. That means that a 95% confidence interval stretches from 1.07 to 3.84. Possibly one can be more confident about impact factors for journals with larger numbers of papers or for 5 year impact factors, we'll have to see.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Crawford School Working Papers

I am taking over the role of research director in the Crawford School. Apart from being responsible for the PhD programs I also deal with a set of research-related issues. Instead of just posting about CCEP working papers I plan to highlight developments across all our publications in future blogposts.

I've put together a page with some links to our publications as they appear in various online services. We have six currently active working paper series that are indexed on RePEc (let me know if I missed something out):

Crawford School Research Papers : This is our new school-wide series, which is cataloged on both RePEc and SSRN and is intended to cover the range of disciplines represented at the school. However, different disciplines have different traditions of working papers. In some disciplines putting out a working paper precludes publication in a journal (in much of biology, for example). By contrast, economics has a very strong working paper tradition. So not all disciplines are likely to be equally represented here.

Arndt-Corden Department of Economics, Departmental Working Papers: This is the long-running working paper series of the Arndt-Corden Department of Economics which is now a department within the Crawford School and was formerly the economics department of the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies. The series focuses on economic development and trade particularly in Asia and the Pacific.

ASARC Working Papers: This series is put out by the Australia South Asia Research Centre.

Asia Pacific Economics Papers: This series is published by the Australia-Japan Research Centre.

CCEP Working Papers: Readers of this blog will be familar with this series produced by CCEP.

Development Policy Centre Discussion Papers: Another new series from the Development Policy Centre at Crawford.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Most Popular Posts, 2011

What were the most popular posts on Stochastic Trend in 2011? It was pretty random :)

1. 2009 Journal Citation Report Released (1525 hits). People are very interested in learning what are the top journals. Even if the report is a year out of date.

2. IAmScientist (939 hits). Also they are interested in scientific social networking.

3. Marginal Cost Curve for Crude Oil (606 hits). As oil prices rose again, the cost of oil production remains a popular topic.

4. How Does CSIRO Compare to Australian Universities? (544 hits). This is the most popular post actually written in 2011. Discussion of a paper comparing CSIRO's publication performance with the top Australian universities.

5. ERA Ranked Journal List is Out(368 hits). Even though the ranked journal list was abolished a lot of people are still using it.

6. Energy Mix and Energy Intensity (343 hits). Down from 3rd place last year, this is the most popular post on my own research content.

7. How Does PLoS ONE Have Such a High Impact Factor? (308 hits). This post is only a couple of months old but is already one of the more popular ones.

8. The Ecological Economics Critique (237 hits). Down from 4th place last year. Another part of my serialization of this paper.

8. Synthesizing Diesel Fuel Using Cyanobacteria (220 hits).

9. SD Memory Cards (214 hits).

So, only three posts actually written in 2011. I'll have to take some lessons from this when writing in 2012!