Why do most finance papers suck?

That is the topic of this new paper by Alex Edmans, a finance professor and the managing editor of the prestigious Review of Finance, the official publication of the European Finance Association. In a nutshell, Professor Edmans explains why he had to reject “nearly 1,000 manuscripts” for publication during his tenure at the journal. Below are just a few of his reasons for rejecting so many papers for publication:

  1. The results in the rejected paper are “insufficiently novel” (i.e. the paper is old hat);
  2. The results are insignificant or “insufficiently important” (i.e. trivial results);
  3. The results are insufficiently generalizable (i.e. the results have little relevance to the real world);
  4. The paper considers only one side of the trade-off (i.e. the author commits the Nirvana Fallacy);
  5. The paper lacks clear hypotheses (i.e. the claims in the paper are too vague or wishy-washy to be tested).

While I agree with items #4 and #5, which are common problems in my field (law), what Professor Edmans fails to mention is that the questions of novelty, significance, and generalizability are highly subjective and contested ones. (See here, for example.) Nor does he even begin to address the elephant in the ivory-tower room: why do we still need gatekeepers like Edmans; or more generally, why do we need obsolete print journals in the Internet Age? Why not follow the legal scholarship model instead in which almost everything gets published (there are over 1,500 law journals out there) and let the scholarly community as a whole decide what is worthy? (I guess these secondary questions would be the subject of another paper!)

About F. E. Guerra-Pujol

When I’m not blogging, I am a business law professor at the University of Central Florida.
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