Monday, March 9, 2009

Lead papers are not particularly better

Much is made about lead papers in journals. Some editors like to put what they think is the best article of a review in front. Is there any truth that this signals quality? Tom Coupé, Victor Ginsburgh and Abdul Noury use a natural experiment to test this idea: The order of articles in European Economic Review was alphabetical by author in some issues from 1975 to 1995. One can accept that this is a random ordering on the quality dimension.

The results are sobering. It turns out papers appearing first do have a citation advantage. This means that at least part of the citation advantage of lead papers is due to their position, not their quality. And knowing how the alphabet ranking of your name matters, it appears latter authors were doubly screwed in the European Economic Review.

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