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I don't know how I've become an associate defender of the Morduch Roodman paper on World Bank blogs, but anyway I continue to contend that this critique is based on a near willful misreading of the Morduch and Roodman work. Their contention was never based on the opposite sign they found, but on the insufficiency of the Pitt Khandker work in demonstrating causality. Their citation of the opposite sign finding was to show that the results were highly dependent on assumptions and statistical manipulations. However, they did contend, and still do, now with more robustness than ever, that the Pitt Khandker paper does not establish causality.
The last thing I want to do here on the DI blog is to get into that debate. I could barely stand reading some of the very long exchanges -- like watching a train wreck You may well be right and I know some will disagree with you I don't know enough detail to chime in, nor would I want to. But, my point remains that many working papers, most likely including that of Murdoch and Roodman, have room for improvement and would benefit from peer review before hitting the airwaves. Would it not be worthwhile, a la "The Email Charter" to produce a "Working Paper" charter that set some community standards and expectations that would help to overcome some of the limitations of the Working Paper form.
For instance I can imagine a cover page that lists versions and changes in findings--a simplified version of what Wikipedia does to track edits.
A co-author posted a draft version of our paper as a working paper, and after being accepted at a respected journal, the offer has been rescinded because they found an online version I didn't even know it was there! I like that. Some people but not all do list the versions in the cover page, but the changes in findings is a good idea. I wonder how easy it would be to implement.
Sometimes, new findings are added, there is a new emphasis, a model, heterogeneity, scaling down of certain discussions, etc. Might be hard to summarize all that neatly As a side note, however, we'd like to thank everyone who are taking the time to read and comment on our blog. This type of exchange of thoughtful ideas and brainstorming is exactly what we hoped for when we started this blog a few months ago.
This is the case with the biomedical journals that I am familiar with: if you choose to put out a working paper, you have pretty much foregone your right to a journal publication. As far as I understand it, their definition of original work and copyright includes anything online -- it wouldn't even have to be in a working paper series.
I'm not sure the issue is primarily to do with 'working papers' per se so much as improvement over time. I had previously read your earlier working paper and was unaware of your subsequent improvements upon it. I made reference to Duncan's blogs not because this was my only route of access but to remind him of his mention of the paper. Suppose your earlier working paper had been peer-reviewed and published. While your subsequent research is certainly an improvement I don't think it's impossible that the working paper could have been published, given that so much accepted research uses indicators that are self-reported.
I would have then made the same remark: recalling a previous paper I had read, which unbeknown to me given my lack of omniscience had been improved upon. So I'm not convinced the problem is with the existence of working papers, but rather our lack of omniscience. Given the advantages of working papers especially feedback , I'm inclined to think the solution is not to move away from them, but rather to try to ensure people know of subsequent improvements - just as you did in your reply to my comments on Duncan's blog.
Thanks very much for the comments. You're absolutely right and i agree with you mostly. Two small additions, however. First, while peer-review does not make papers perfect, on average, it improves them. And, given that many people treat evidence from working papers almost as good as publications, the quality of follow-up policy advice suffers more. Second, I am not convinced that the feedback we may get for working papers is better than feedback from anonymous reviewers whose job is to give exactly the kind of feedback.
This is an empirical question, but at least for me, the supposed advantage of working papers made public online has not panned out in terms of providing me with ideas for substantive improvements. My feeling is that people bring out working papers for dissemination rather than substantive feedback. You might get good feedback from close colleagues, others you sent the paper to and specifically requested feedback from, or from presenting the work at academic seminars.
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I highly recommend it. You just have to accept the fact that this is a digital age, and the speed for journal review process is simply not catching up. Think about the financial crisis: The worst recession since the s happened so quickly in a couple of months. Without working papers there won't be reasonable exchange of ideas and data on the crisis.
If someone submit a paper at the beginning of the crisis, it may get published after the recession ends. The problem is not with working paper, but with the journal system. If it's dissemination, I think they've been successful. And in fact, more successful than journal articles simply because it's a faster, more flexible process.
If it's substantive feedback, then I think the current mechanisms to distribute the papers are poorly designed. Let's look at the working paper series' you cited above: 1.
BREAD: general download link, no feedback or opportunity to provide comments in a community manner ie. NBER: log in or pay for working paper before download university email addresses suffice to get the download link. I think it would be harder to make this system more unfriendly. IZA: Calls its papers "Discussion papers" but a decade after blogs arrived on the internet, still provides no forum for discussion. Like some of? My conclusions: - Working Papers are currently designed to be distributed disseminated.
Suggested feedback mechanism: mini-peer reviews by graduate students at universities across the world. With the authors' consent, the mini-reviews could even be posted with the paper for wider learning. This is really helpful! But what are some argents actually for the working paper system? I am pretty convinced that it is generally a bad idea.