In this guest post Paul Braidford talks about the difficulties of publishing easily understandable econometric research in Regional Studies, Regional Science journal and the difficulties encountered by authors, especially early career authors, in reducing the size and complexity of their work so that it can be published in a 3000 word or less article.
Looking back over the 16 Early Career
articles published so far in Regional Studies, Regional Science, it’s
noticeable that – in comparison with the non-EC articles – very few employ any
form of sophisticated statistical modelling or econometric analysis as the main
basis of the paper. Laura McKim uses logistic regression, but
without any detailed reporting of the variables, equations or results and with
only a brief discussion of the choice of method. Maxwell
Douglas Hartt discusses the use of a spatial-temporal modelling tool, but –
again – the actual modelling results are only briefly reported. Compare this with the non-EC articles. Out of a similar number of papers, four (Otsuka
et al, Aguiar
et al, Cebula
et al and an de
Meulen and Mitze) focus on modelling or econometric analysis, with more
details of results, variables and methods.
This is, it should be stressed, merely an
observation, rather than any sort of judgement on the quality of papers, nor
should any judgement be implied.
Nonetheless, it is worth investigating the reasons why this apparent
divergence might have come about. It is
also worth noting that there are several more econometric-based EC papers in
the pipeline. But there’s always room
What, then, are the important lessons to
bear in mind for EC researchers potentially looking to submit a paper which
uses econometric techniques, statistical modelling or similar? And why are more such papers not being submitted?
There are, as far as I can see, two main
factors which may discourage authors from submitting this type of paper.
Neither is an absolute barrier, and they are to an extent inter-related, but
both require some careful thought about how to report findings and structure
First, there is clearly the length
restriction. To qualify for the fee
papers must be 3,000 words or less.
This poses a difficulty in fully reporting results, and, equally, fully
describing variables and techniques.
Second, the Early Career section of RSRS,
in both its current form and its earlier incarnation as Regional Insights, has always stressed that we aim to publish articles
on new ideas and fresh thinking, accessible to readers from the wide range of
disciplines which fall under Regional Studies.
This may, unfortunately, discourage some potential authors from
submitting papers based on novel statistical techniques, or which rely on the
application of specific techniques in order to derive results, as they may
believe they are too specialist or not accessible.
To take the second point first, it is clear
that some papers are not right for
the EC section, and would fit better in other journals. For example, papers
which seek to develop methodological points would probably be more
appropriately submitted to Spatial Economic Analysis. But submitting to RSRS involves a different take on the issues; learning to
communicate your ideas to a wider audience in a succinct manner is a valuable
skill. ‘Generalist’ readers interested
in Regional Studies can understand even fairly complex techniques, as long as
there is a clear explanation accompanying them – the trick lies in how you
write the paper for this audience, rather than in how you do the analysis,
necessarily. Note the techniques you used,
and a brief explanation of why they are being used, as well as any pros or
cons. Do not ‘dumb down’ the
explanations but – at the same time – use common sense to guide you in what a
generalist reader would be expected to know or would need to know in order to
follow your arguments. Anything more
complex can be paraphrased, with a reference to be followed up by those desiring
a fuller explanation. RSRS mainly publishes papers which have
clear implications for policy or practice, and articles should reflect that –
i.e. clearly, but briefly, explain the methodology, variables and results,
highlighting the most important points of relevance to policy makers or
practitioners, with the full data available on request to those interested.
Focus more heavily on the implications of the analysis.
In turn, this helps with problems of
length. In summarising the statistical portions, this should leave sufficient
space to concentrate more on the literature and implications, showing the
reader – and the editors – that the author has understood the issues.(Alongside,
of course, providing the full analysis to the reviewers, as you would expect,
so that they can check for omissions or inadvertent errors.)
In short, then, we would welcome the submission of more EC
abstracts using econometric techniques. Importantly, though, they need to make
the effort to be accessible to non-specialists; to judiciously select the most
relevant points to include in order to get the argument across; to include
sufficient detail about the econometrics to make it clear how the analysis has
been performed; and to clearly and concisely highlight the contribution of the
paper to the wider field of Regional Studies.
Paul Braidford (<a href="https://twitter.com/chigley2/" style="border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-style: inherit; font-variant: inherit; font-weight: inherit; line-height: inherit;