+1 vote
asked ago in General Economics Questions by (2.3k points)
edited ago by
Math professor Ted Hill wrote an evolutionary theory paper on why male variability would be greater than female. It was accepted at one journal, but beore publication, pressure from Women in Mathematics led to the NSF asking that its name be removed as a grant source, then a co-author asking to be removed, then the journal unaccepting. A second journal heard about it, requested submission, accepted, but then removed the paper from its online site and put another paper of the same length there, after getting heat. https://quillette.com/2018/09/07/academic-activists-send-a-published-paper-down-the-memory-hole/  People at major universities are involved in this.
Could this happen in economics? What should be done?

Sept. 12:  Husband and wife Profs. Farb and Wilkinson of U. of Chicago have posted statements giving their versions of the story:  https://math.uchicago.edu/~wilkinso/Statement.html

2 Answers

0 votes
answered ago by (900 points)
Here is a fairly uncontroversial fact: The "Mathematical Intelligencer" is not a research journal but essentially a magazine for math undergraduates. It's "Aims and Scope" explicitly states "The traditional Definition/Theorem/Proof style of research articles is not appropriate here, nor are articles aimed only at specialists." Conversely, the New York Journal of Mathematics is a high-quality research journal. The intersection between the two journals is empty.

So the Mathematical Intelligencer plainly does not matter enough for this to be a controversy. The paper by Hill is clearly not appropriate for the NYJM and so it is unsurprising that half the editorial board was strongly opposed to the paper being published there. I'm not sure there exists an equivalent in economics, but I suggest one takes a look at Hill's paper at https://arxiv.org/abs/1703.04184 and then looks at the papers published in the NYJM at http://nyjm.albany.edu/nyjm.html  

Good sources for discussion of the paper and the story behind it can be found at https://gowers.wordpress.com/2018/09/09/has-an-uncomfortable-truth-been-suppressed/
commented ago by (2.3k points)
That  Mathematical Intelligencer is not  a research journal is immaterial. The Journal of Economic Perspectives isn't either, but if it retracted an acceptance because of political heat, without any other excuse, we in economics would be upset. NYJM actually suppressed the article-- accepted it, had the author sign over his rights,  published it, and then replaced it with another article with the same number of pages. It did this, again, for political reasons, without offering any excuse. The article may or may not be appropriate for NYJM, but if, say, Econometrica, publishes an article and the editorial board thinks the editor made a mistake, as I'm sure happens now and then, they don't threaten to resign.  
   Thanks for the Gowers blog link. I am looking for what the other side of the story might be. Gowers, though, seems to be saying he doesn't  like the paper's model. That's irrelevant too. I myself haven't read the paper and I just skimmed Gowers. The males-are-more-variable phenomenon the paper is about is well established empirically, and thought the theory was well established too, so I do wonder what the Hill paper adds. But lack of novelty---without outright plagiarism-- isn't something I've ever heard of papers being retracted for.
commented ago by (530 points)
Look, of course even the lowest-ranked journal should be held to the highest scientific standards, but it does matter that this isn't a serious journal. Comparing the Mathematical Intelligencier to the JEP is ridulous; according to Scimago, it's ranked 452/456 mathematics journals. If there were a publication scandal in "La Revue fran├žaise de gestion" -- the equivalently-ranked economics journal -- no one would care. And rightly not!
commented ago by (2.3k points)
"Look, of course even the lowest-ranked journal should be held to the highest scientific standards, but it does matter that this isn't a serious journal."   

    You just contradicted yourself.
commented ago by (900 points)
The discussion on Gower's blog provides a lot more background. I agree it was debatable how the two journals handled the issue. But clearly, the paper was only accepted in both cases for nonscientific reasons. The MI editor stated (according to Hill): "I am happy to stir up controversy and few topics generate more than this one. " and then gave suggestions how to stir up even more menure (yay, an econ connection). Then a coeditor fast-tracked the paper for political reasons while the main editor was missing for health reasons. Regarding the rest: Editors in mathematics have stepped down for allowing subpar research to be published (http://www.ems-ph.org/journals/notice/emss/ed_note.pdf) before.
–4 votes
answered ago by (90 points)
This is the internet equivalent of book-burning. Now, we will see who the real fascists are.