Economics and the mid-life crisis have much in common: Both dwell on foregone opportunities

C'est la vie; c'est la guerre; c'est la pomme de terre . . . . . . . . . . . . . email: jpalmer at uwo dot ca

. . . . . . . . . . .Richard Posner should be awarded the next Nobel Prize in Economics . . . . . . . . . . . .

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Nobel-Prize Winning Research Rejected

Thanks to BenS, here is a link to a paper that chronicles all the research that was rejected by journals but which later, when published elsewhere, led to Nobel Prizes for the scholars.

Sadly, the author seems to see this as some deviation from the ideal.
[M]ost of [the] instances discussed above deal with genuine resistance to scientific discovery and it is illuminating to ascertain some of the reasons why such a resistance exists in the first place.

A possible explanation that could motivate peer resistance to scientific discovery lies in the fact that new theories or discoveries often clash with the orthodox viewpoints held by the referees.

... In other instances the problem is that referees did not appreciated the potential or the interest of the new discoveries. ... Something is wrong with the peer review system when an expert consider[s] that a manuscript is not of enough interest to be published and later the work reported in such rejected paper earn[s] the Nobel Prize to their authors.
A more positive interpretation is to see these errors of commission and of omission as part of a normal, evolutionary process.

I see them as something to be expected, given scarcity. More importantly, I see the results as evidence that the system works! It is a ringing endorsement of competition among academic journals: if one journal rejects a brilliant, path-breaking article, another has an incentive to publish and move up in the citation rankings. Without that competition, some of the break-throughs might never be published.
For what it is worth, I noticed that the author had no instances of early journal rejection of Nobel-Prize winning work in economics.
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