Willful Blindness: The Inefficient Reward Structure in Academic Research
Economic Inquiry, Forthcoming
46 Pages Posted: 22 Feb 2013 Last revised: 17 Mar 2015
Date Written: April 30, 2013
This paper examines how economics departments judge research articles and assign credit to authors. It begins with a demonstration that only strictly prorated author credit induces researchers to choose efficient sized teams. Nevertheless, survey evidence reveals that most economics departments only partially prorate authorship credit, implying excessive coauthorship. Indeed, a half-century increase in coauthorship may be better explained by incomplete proration than by any increased specialization among authors. A possible explanation for the reliance on incomplete proration is the self-interest of economists who are more likely to engage coauthorship — full professors. The self-interest of senior faculty may also explain the relatively small role given to citations in senior promotions. A rational response by economists to the under-proration of author credit is to engage in false authorship. Although false authorship is of dubious ethical status, it may have the perverse impact of improving the efficiency of team production. Grossly excessive coauthorship, where little attention is paid to most authors listed on a paper, as found in some other academic disciplines, may be the path down which economics is headed if the reward structure is not altered.
Keywords: journals, coauthorship, citations, publications
JEL Classification: A14, O30, I23
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation