Friday, November 22, 2013

Lack of transparency at the American Economic Association

I have complained several times on this blog about how the American Economic Association is run, particularly how its executive and committees are constituted almost exclusively of faculty from the very top universities, and mostly private universities, see the current slate of officers (Past posts: 1, 2, 3, 4). This lack of representation leads to apparent nepotism in the distribution of awards, and this can lead to suspicions of the same for acceptances to its annual meeting program (especially the printed, unrefereed proceedings) and to its journals. I have called in the past to write in at the elections a candidate that does not fit the profile of current AEA officers, but rather a common member of the association. But the AEA has only announced the winner of the election, with no vote tally. As this does not look very transparent, I enquired with the AEA Secretary-Treasurer, Peter Rousseau, whom I asked about full election results and how they are certified. Here is what he answered:
The long-standing policy of the AEA in reporting election results is to report only names of those elected. This policy was re-visited by the Executive Committee several years ago. The minutes of that meeting state:

"A member requested that the number of votes for each candidate in the annual election of officers be reported publicly. Current policy is for the Secretary-Treasurer and Administrative Director to certify the vote counts, which are tabulated electronically, and to report only the names of the successful candidates. After an interesting economic and psychological analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of reporting individual vote counts, it was decided to retain the Association's policy of reporting only the qualitative outcome of the annual election of officers."

The bylaws clearly state that the Secretary certifies the results. Please be assured that it is my fiduciary responsibility to the membership as its agent to report those qualitative results accurately.

Thank you for supporting the AEA and its mission of encouraging economic research worldwide.
So it is the very executive committee that is suspect of inbreeding that is at the origin of this policy of obfuscation of the election results. And it is a member of the executive committee, the unelected Secretary, that certifies election results and only releases part of them. This is how dictators run sham elections.


Anonymous said...

The fact that the AEA honchos do not see a problem is the best signal that there is a problem.

Miss Harvard said...

Next time you should suggest a slate of serious alternatives. KEEP UP THE GOOD FIGHT. Also process need to be set up auditing the acceptances of AEA editors. Goldberg definitely sends her friends papers to "friendlies" for refereeing. There are some indications that Pistaferri does the same.

Anonymous said...

You are spot on, EL. In our department, we followed your lead and voted for Burge. I suspect there was a substantial vote for him and the AEA is trying to hide this to kill this movement in the bud.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, EL, for keeping up the fight. By its name, the AEA is supposed to represent American economists, yet it only seems to be a vehicle for its very narrow elite to push its agenda.

Kansan said...

Hmm, I was wondering whether I should be paying my dues this year. I need not be a member to interview job candidates at the ASSA meetings, and I have no shot at getting on the program anyway.

Anonymous said...

The AEA is a very corrupt organization. The journals are corrupt too. When Costas Meghir was an Editor at Econometrica he sent his friends papers to their coauthors to referee.