Economists Found a Problem and Devised a Solution Only Economists Would Come Up With – Real Time Economics

Some economists found a problem in their ranks. Some other economists devised a solution fit for economists.

The National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit organization based in Cambridge, Mass., is known to some of the public as the nation’s semiofficial arbiter of business cycles. It’s usually in the news for determining when recessions start and end.

For economists and people who follow them, NBER is the most important clearinghouse for economic research. Each week, the group emails out a list of links to new papers from academics and other researchers. Economics-oriented websites, including Real Time Economics, frequently cite NBER-distributed work.

Earlier this year, a group of economists conducted a study ostensibly about how consumers choose from lists. They built a database to track rankings in that weekly email, which goes out to more than 23,000 subscribers, and how that translates into online hits to the papers. Their finding: Being at the top of a randomized list leads to about 30% more views, downloads and citations over the next two years. Being at the very bottom helps, too.

The weekly NBER email listed papers solely based on the order in which they were received and processed, leading to “a process that is essentially impossible to game” and a list that is “effectively random,” the authors note. But processing procedures can influence the ordering.

Fast-forward a few months, when NBER President James Poterba announced Wednesday a logical and adorable solution fit for economists: The “New This Week” email will now spit out different orders for the papers across the email list.

From his note to subscribers:

To avoid inequities across working papers that result from list placement differences, beginning next week, the order of papers in each of the more than 23,000 “New This Week” messages that we send will be determined randomly. This will mean that roughly the same number of message recipients will see a given paper in the first position, in the second position, and so on.

I wanted to call this change to your attention so that you would not be puzzled if you noticed that papers were no longer listed in ascending numerical order.

Some economists spend their entire careers identifying problems but never seeing solutions. Not this group. Congratulations to the authors, listed here at the bottom in alphabetical order: Daniel R. Feenberg, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaule and Jonathan Gruber.




for economic news and analysis

for central banking news and analysis

Get WSJ economic analysis delivered to your inbox:

Sign up for the Real Time Economics daily summary

If the article suppose to have a video or a photo gallery and it does not appear on your screen, please Click Here

3 September 2015 | 8:27 pm – Source:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.