Scholarly Comments on Academic Economics

The Costs of Critical Commentary in Economics Journals


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THE BENEFITS OF CRITICAL COMMENTARY ARE MANIFEST. Indeed, all of human understanding depends upon it. Coelho, De Worken-Eley, and McClure (2005) document that critical commentary declined as a share of the pages published in five highly-ranked economics journals between 1963 and 2004. They argue that this decline constitutes a negative trend, chastising journal editors for this mistake, while enumerating several benefits that arise from commentary—especially the discovery and advertisement of errors and limitations, but also allowing readers and researchers to achieve a broader and deeper comprehension, constraining editors’ self-serving behavior, and piquing readers’ interest. They argue that “an editorial posture that eschews critical commentary subjugates the spirit of scientific inquiry,” and suggest that editors’ ignorance of the benefits are at the root the problem (360).

This article is a comment on Decline in Critical Commentary, 1963–2004 by Philip R. P. Coelho, Frederick De Worken-Eley III, and James E. McClure (EJW, August 2005).

Response to this article by Philip R. P. Coelho and James E. McClure: Why Has Critical Commentary Been Curtailed at Top Economics Journals? A Reply to Robert Whaples (EJW, May 2006).