Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Increasing the Impact of Heterodox Work: Insights from RoSE

Academic journal article The American Journal of Economics and Sociology

Increasing the Impact of Heterodox Work: Insights from RoSE

Article excerpt

Introduction

Recent work by Fred Lee and others shows that research "impact" is hard to measure, and that widely used methods of quantifying impact tend to give heterodox journals the short end of the stick. (1) Yet it is also true that, qualitatively, heterodox research tends to fall short of its desired impact, in terms of creating and sustaining a lively, productive, and socially relevant discourse different from that of the mainstream, and/or changing the knowledge practices and priorities in the profession's work. Thus, for example, awareness of heterodox discourse outside of heterodox discourse is very low, as shown by mainstream tendencies to start from scratch when revisiting issues well-researched in the heterodox literature (e.g., relational preferences, conspicuous consumption). Moreover, the typical article published in a heterodox journal has a low probability of being cited in any scholarly journal (in the ISI or not), in a timely way. This suggests that, even if the ratings game is stacked against heterodox outlets, other problems probably also contribute to low impact.

To help understand what gives heterodox work good prospects of having good impact, this article analyzes the pool of articles published in the Review of Social Economy in the past 15 years, aiming to identify what differentiates articles that get cited from those that do not. As a matter of background, RoSE is a 68-year-old journal, presently published by Routledge, that aims to promote scholarship on the many intersections between social values and economic life. Work published in RoSE covers a relatively eclectic mix of subjects that fall broadly under the heading of "social economics," including empirical and conceptual studies of qualitative dimensions of social welfare (health, human dignity, economic security, basic needs, social justice); theories relating social, cultural, religious, and ethical values to economic behavior and institutions; and characterizations of economic activity organized by rationales other than the profit motive (the "social economy" or third or nonprofit sector). (2) In the spirit of open-minded inquiry, it also publishes work in related areas of interest, such as economic thought; social ontology; institutional, radical, and post-Keynesian economics; and applied fields sharing RoSins concern with inclusion and social welfare, such as gender/feminist economics, development, and ecological economics. RoSE is not presently included in the ISI, although it does appear in widely circulated rankings such as that of Kalaitzidakis, Mamuneas, and Stengos (2003), usually in a respectable but lower-tier rank.

A key assumption made in this article is that, at a journal like ROSE, which publishes only 10-20 percent of submitted papers, those that make it through the process of double-blind peer review by expert referees should be viewed as high in quality: to the extent that they fail to have much subsequent impact on economic knowledge, problem(s) are of other kinds--such as overly narrow topics, overly narrow pools of interested scholars, topics of limited current interest, etc. Thus, we go through and code up the various articles and examine what correlates with being cited or highly cited. An interesting finding is that the distribution of citations is highly skewed: About half of all articles are not cited at all within three years, while a large share of total citations comes from a small number of "big hit" articles. The article analyzes the characteristics of these articles, aiming to identify what made them interesting to broad audiences. The article concludes with some implications of the evidence from RoSE for efforts to increase the impact of heterodox work.

Methodology and Descriptive Statistics

To examine the impact of articles published in RoSE on other published work, I collected citation information for all original articles published in the journal between 1993 and 2006. …

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