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Keen – How to suceed as an academic economist

Steve Keen outlines the path to academic success from bitter experience in his blog post ‘How to Succeed as an Academic Economist’.

Having read far more economic papers that I care to admit, I have worked out the “secret” formula for achieving a voluminous publication record in the subject. The “recipe” for publication success is as follows.

Step 1: Cite the work of as many potential referees to your paper as possible, as this will soothe their egos and shows that you are one of them. Make sure that your paper is seen as merely an extension of the work of one of the gurus and you are not going to “rock the boat”, challenging the establishment.

Step 2: For the bulk of your paper, bamboozle your readers/referees with a complicated model or argument, making any assumptions you need (however unrealistic), because Milton Friedman has already covered you with his essay on “the methodology of positive economics”. If you have enough complexity in mathematics or argument, it is likely that the reader/referee will not bother to follow the heart of your paper in detail.

Step 3: It is vitally important that in your conclusions that you only make modest claims in supporting the status quo, such as eg the evidence or the model lends support to the efficient market hypothesis or globalization or whatever. Quite often, your conclusions do not have to follow from what you did in Step 2. Any strong conclusions, particularly when challenging the status quo, will lead a much closer scrutiny of your paper by the referee, who is taking a career risk in accepting your paper. As the additional effort is not personally rewarded, the economically rational action for the referee is to simply reject the paper.

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