Advice for authors

What Types of Papers Do We Publish?

While the Journal is open to all kinds of contributions, in general the board is reluctant to publish papers in "pure theory" for which there are many good alternative outlets. Most successful submissions have questions well grounded in real world problems or have policy relevance. Of course, methodology must be technically correct and convincingly robust, but authors should seek to provide clear intuitions for key results and forces in plain English—this often requires a serious effort at writing, rather than presenting results in a "mechanical" way with little intuition and little attempt to directly relate findings to real-world examples, applications and concerns.

The editorial board is renewed periodically; editors have terms of four years and are renewed in general at most once. The managing editor, the advisory council and the current editors choose new editors as well as associate editors. While the choice of editors reflects permanence in the objectives stated above, editors' tastes obviously matter for the final decision on submissions (but in general not so much for desk rejects).

Independently of whether the editorial board is new or old, papers or topics, which may have been successful in the past, may no longer be favored. For instance, a new frontier topic or question may catch the attention of the editorial board at one time and lead to a flow of papers accepted on this topic. However, after a while the board may perceive that the literature has reached "decreasing marginal returns" and that papers in the area are no longer a priority.

This means that authors working on topics that have been the object of a large literature have in general a more difficult time to convince the editors that they should be published. Working on the existing literature or "filling gaps" can be a useful exercise however since it provides tests for robustness for theories, but this is not the type of paper that the editorial board wants to publish. Papers of this type often their place in more specialized journals, or journals that put more a focus on technical aspects.

At the same time, novel or insightful results within a well-developed literature, or in a narrower literature, are likely to be well received. The key words here are "novel" and "important": the first means that simple generalizations of known results are not well received, the second means that the author has found a way to present results in such a way that it brings new and important insights, either from a theoretical or a policy perspective. 

A simple test for the author is to sit back after having written his or her paper and to ask basic questions about the fit of the paper with the Journal of Industrial Economics.

  • Take a fair and honest view on the importance of your results: "If I hear about this paper, would I be surprised?" If not, you should ask yourself "Would I have thought about this without having read this paper?" A paper can be "obvious" ex-post but not ex-ante. If is obvious ex-ante and ex-post, there is little need to publish it.
  • If the paper directly tries to validate or invalidate results in the literature, ask yourself if the profession will look at the literature in a different way after seeing your paper: "While the literature shows that "A" is right if "X", I show that it is not so if "Y": is "Y" a more reasonable assumption than "X" or am I simply stating that if the environment is different the result is different? Does this matter for policy in an important way?"