Academic journal article American Economist

The Determinants of the Reputations of Economics Departments: Pages Published, Citations and the Andy Rooney Effect

Academic journal article American Economist

The Determinants of the Reputations of Economics Departments: Pages Published, Citations and the Andy Rooney Effect

Article excerpt

David J. Smyth [*]

Abstract

This paper analyzes the determinants of the ratings and rankings of Economics departments generated in a recent reputational study by the National Research Council. A department's reputation increases with the number of article pages published and the citation rate for its faculty's publications. A page in a "top five" journal is worth more than a page published in other journals. There are diminishing returns to pages published and to citations. The National Research Council ratings for private institutions are biased upwards and those for southern schools are biased downwards. A revised set of rankings with these biases removed is constructed. The optimum publication strategy for a department depends on the distribution of pages published between "top five" and other journals. Economists judged departments more harshly than faculty in other disciplines.

I. Introduction

In a recent study the National Research Council (NRC) assessed the nation's doctoral programs, including the programs in economics. The study asked a sample of faculty members to rate doctoral programs on "scholarly quality." [1] The present paper uses a production function approach to analyze the determinants of the reputations of departments of Economics. The primary determinants of a department's reputation are the number of article pages published and the citation rate for its faculty's publications. There are diminishing returns to pages published and citations. A page published in a "top five" journal is more valuable than a page published in other journals so that the optimum publication strategy for a department depends on the size and distribution of its publications. The paper also investigates for bias in the reputational rankings. It finds the existence of an "Andy Rooney effect"-prejudice and ignorance bias upwards the rankings of private institutions and bias downwards the rankings of southern schools. The paper then uses the production function estimates to construct revised rankings based on the reputation to pages and citations relationship and the Andy Rooney effect. Finally, as economists graded departments more harshly than faculty in other disciplines, I note some implications of this and provide some advice to chairpersons of economics departments.

II. The NRC Survey

In National Research Council (1995), the NRC provides rankings for 107 Economics departments. In a survey conducted in spring 1993 some faculty members received a form listing up to 50 programs in his or her field selected at random from a list of participating programs. The survey asked a number of questions. The present analysis uses the summary statistics generated by the responses to a question on the "scholarly quality of program faculty." Respondents rated schools on a scale of 0 to 5 using the following criteria: 4.01 and above, "distinguished"; 3.01 to 4.00, "strong"; 2.51 to 3.00, "good"; 2.00 to 2.50, "adequate"; 1.00 to 1.99, "marginal"; 0 to 0.99, "not sufficient for doctoral education."

For inclusion, an Economics department had to meet the following criteria: it had to have produced at least three Ph.D.s between 1988 and 1990 and one in 1991; if it produced no Ph.D.s in 1991, it had to have a rating of at least 2.0 in a similar study conducted in 1982. The rather strange 1991 criterion, which ignores the year to year variation in Ph.D. production, seems to have led to the exclusion of some small and some new Ph.D. programs in economics.

III. The Data and Model Specification

Economists have long ranked economics departments based on their publication records. [2] The most recent and detailed analysis is Scott and Mitias (1996). One problem with such studies is that they produce a series of rankings based on different publication criteria--total pages published in a large number of journals, or in "top" journals, or pages adjusted for faculty numbers, or the lifetime stock of pages published in a set of journals are just some examples. …

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