Academic journal article Atlantic Economic Journal

John M. Virgo: A Career Spent in Service to the Development of the Science and Art of Economics

Academic journal article Atlantic Economic Journal

John M. Virgo: A Career Spent in Service to the Development of the Science and Art of Economics

Article excerpt

When John M. Virgo decided to undertake the task of creating the society, he, like most of his colleagues, was frustrated by the lack of opportunities for economists to publish and present the results of their scholarship before their colleagues. While the American Economic Association and its primary journal, the American Economic Review had been published for nearly a century, the other existing organizations and journals were still in their infancy. The Journal of Economic Literature, for example, had been in existence for just five years.

John's original idea was to create a regional journal and meeting that would provide those who worked primarily in the Middle Atlantic states with another outlet for their work and another forum within which to exchange ideas and seek input on their works in progress. With his decision to accept a position on the faculty of a university that was almost as new as the society but located in the center of the country, he had to change its orientation. John noted that there was a significant gap in the coverage of the profession's scholarship. While there were journals and societies that were published by institutions in Europe and the United States, there was really no organization that attempted to associate scholars from the two sides of the Atlantic together in the same space. This approach would bring the work of Europeans to the attention of Americans and allow those working in Europe to have greater access to the work of their American colleagues.

Over the next 40 years, John, with the assistance of his wife, Kathy, and a dedicated staff, would expand and refine this original concept and mission to create an organization that permitted his colleagues to participate in two annual meetings, one usually held in North America and a second held in Europe, and two journals, each of which encouraged submissions from the breadth of fields encompassed by the discipline. In so doing, John made a conscious choice to promote the scholarship of others at the expense of the work that he might have done as a principal or co-principal investigator. Being a managing editor and executive vice president/program chair of a scholarly society as well as a dedicated teacher, leaves little time for much else.

The Role of Refereeing the 21st Century

In ways that will be discussed shortly, peer review of papers and manuscripts submitted for inclusion in the programs of professional organizations and publication in the journals and other publications sponsored by those organizations is even more important today than it was in the early 1970s. When John founded the IAES, essentially the only way that a scholar could have his or her work published or presented was to submit a manuscript or synopsis/outline to an editor or conference organizer. After screening by appropriate organization personnel, those prospective pieces were then reviewed by peers in the field to determine if the work would advance our understanding of some aspect of the discipline. Even the working paper series published by many of the Ph.D. granting universities and research institutes were reviewed by the editor of the series before these drafts were circulated among interested parties. This widespread practice insured that virtually no piece was added to the canon of the fields of the discipline without some level of peer review, which diminished the likelihood that readers or members of the audience who were not experts in the field were exposed to concepts and conclusions that were inconsistent with the body of work that preceded them.

With the advent of the Internet and Social Media, this is no longer the case. Anyone can now create a web log, "blog," and post his or her musings, where they will literally float forever. The fundamental issue or weakness with blogs is that they are unsubstantiated opinion. Regardless of the credentials of the blogger and the documentation used to support their arguments, the resulting piece is no more than an opinion. …

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