Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Books vs Articles: The Flaying of Elinor Ostrom

I am not going to link to the obnoxious economicsjobmarketrumor blog, where lots of grad students supposedly seeking jobs have been savagely trashing Elinor Ostrom on all kinds of grounds, most of them involving that they have not heard of her and that she has not published articles in top four journals. Her important book that was key to her prize, Governing the Commons, 1990, has been riduculed because presumably unlike an article in the AER, it did not go through a "peer review" process. Wow. Somehow the fact that it has been cited over 7000 times, more than all the citations of some economics Nobelists, including Stiglitz and Prescott, does not register with these dingbats (some of whom were pushing Nancy Stokey, "if you need to give it to a woman," whose citations barely exceed 1,000, but by gosh, she has published with Lucas in the JPE!).

I see this as a broader problem in the economics profession. In particular it calls to mind the tragic situation at Notre Dame University, where the original economics department is now being closed down. The original shot against it came some years ago when a dean wanted a grad program that was "highly ranked," with these rankings based on the publication rates in "top journals" being the key. A characteristic of that department all along has been a tendency for several of its most prominent members to publish more in books than in journal articles. The leading example of this is Phil Mirowski, and I have already argued here that I predict that, say, 30 years from now there will be more citations to his books, More Heat than Light, and Machine Dreams, than to the entire corpus of publications up to this point of the members of the new, self-labeled "neoclassical" department, even though some of them are publishing articles in the AER and so on. In any case, these silly criticisms of Ostrom seem to be of the same piece as the sort of arguments that have been brought to bring down the very fine Notre Dame department.


Simon Halliday said...

I couldn't agree more. What makes this more entertaining for me is that her work was taught in my PhD Econ program and mentioned specifically in one of our texts, Sam Bowles's Microeconomics: Behavior, Institutions, and Evolution. But, the inclusion of such a text immediately sets up our program as heterodox, so I suppose we don't count. Maybe we are 'conteminating' (as some anonymous commenters on the blog you refer to) economics.

Ken Houghton said...

Why would we need to give it to Nancy Stokey--just so Lucas can have to other half of the prize money he paid his first wife when he decided he wanted Stokey instead?

Now, if they were arguing for Claudia Goldin...but that wouldn't happen anyway, I suspect. To prone to using actual data and primary sources.

Ken Houghton said...

Gad, that's ugly. But it took fewer than 20 posts for someone to link to an article of hers in the Summer 2000 JEP (http://www.jstor.org/pss/2646923).

Is JEP not a top journal?

Barkley Rosser said...


Won't ask where your program is. Don't want to get anybody in trouble....


Well, somebody on that ridiculous blog mentioned her JEP articles, but these were ridiculed on the grounds that most of the articles in the JEP are invited, hence not properly refereed, even though articles in there tend to have very high citation rates. By such measures, it is a top ten journal, if not in the top four.

Of course this business about peer review is part of the slam on her books. Doesn't matter how many times they have been cited, they do not count, hack, cough.

Brenda Rosser said...

Speaking of 'the commons'. Some little poetic ditties I found tonight.

don t cuss the climate
it probably doesn t like you
any better
than you like it

every cloud
has its silver
lining but it is
sometimes a little
difficult to get it to
the mint

that stern and
rockbound coast felt
ike an amateur
when it saw how grim
the puritans that
landed on it were

the honey bee is sad and cross
and wicked as a weasel
and when she perches on you boss
she leaves a little measle

insects have
their own point
of view about
civilization a man
thinks he amounts
to a great deal
but to a
flea or a
mosquito a
human being is
merely something
good to eat


Martin Langeland said...

Apropos the young gallants of the Employmeblog, ponder another Marquis bit (from memory, so may be faulty)

a flea walked in
to a lion's den
and bit that lion good
and then he stood
on that lion s mangy mane
as all conquering heroes should
all witness he cried
my power and my might
i ve conquered this lion
with one mighty bite
he does not roar
he does not growl
although his mood is black
he s cowering there
and he doesn t even dare
to try and bite me back
oh a mighty flea am i
a mighty flea am i
i licked this lion
without half tryin
a mighty flea am i
now concerning this flea
one sad thing
must be written
that lion didn t even know
that he d been bitten
and the moral of this tale
is painfully clear to see
that fleas like human beings
are silly and vain

If this tale is a little near the bone remember that if the shoe doesn t fit you don t have to wear it


ProGrowthLiberal said...

The economist blogs have been mostly praising the selections this year. While I was not aware of her work - maybe I should be. I have been a big fan of the work of Williamson for years.