Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Academic Subcultures: Economics

Noah Smith has a great post on how the Economics Job Market works in the US. Since this Market includes faculty positions, this part came as a surprise -- and I'm sure it would cause deep envy among those who can't hope to even apply for faculty jobs before 3-6 years of post doc experience):

What do you need in order to go on the Job Market?

You need a Job Market Paper, or "JMP." This is a piece of original research, usually the first chapter of your dissertation.

That's it! Really! That's all you need! In the words of the great professor Yusufcan Masatlioglu, "All you need is that one damn paper."

At your AEA Meeting interviews, you will mainly discuss your JMP. At your flyout, you will present this paper. You don't need to have published this paper; in fact, you don't need a single academic publication (most people save publishable papers for when they are already working as assistant profs, where the papers will count towards tenure). "All you need is that one damn paper."


  1. Pratik Ray said...

    I envy the economists. They have an excellent system in place for job searches after PhD. My previous roommate as well as a couple of my next door neighbors were grad students in economics, and as the article says, it all does boil down to the job market paper.

    Even other than the job-market concept, what I saw was a very refreshing change from the science and engineering PhDs. Two of the people I refer to were working on the mathematical foundations of economics, and they actually wrote and communicated papers which didnot have their advisor's name as a co-author; not because they have any problems with him - in fact its just the opposite, but because, as theoreticians they didn't need much help from their advisor for this particular paper. Compare this to science and engineering, where single-author research paper is a dying breed, and even two author papers are becoming increasingly rare, while papers with 8-10 authors are becoming the norm.

    Here's an interesting observation. It is not as if the competition in economics is much less than it is in science. But theoretical economists (and mathematicians too) produce a lot of their work with relatively few authors per paper. This is rather similar to science and engineering before 1980, when you actually did not need a post-doc for a faculty job. I am beginning to wonder whether, as a result of collaborations and multi-author papers, it is deemed to be difficult to ascertain how much credit goes to whom (and for what) and therefore, a more extended period of time is required to actually assess the true potential of a candidate. On top of this, due to the need for collaborations and *subordinates* who act on the behalf of the PIs, there is a need for post-docs created by the scientific hierarchy itself. With scientific experiments becoming progressively complex, calling for a multitude of expertise, this trend may only keep ballooning. But in the long run, this is probably going to hurt science since a increasing number of bright undergraduates I interact with are beginning to say that grad school is not an option, because it doesn't end there - there's years of uncertain post-docs before they can even think of getting a position for completely independent research.

    Just a thought, loony as it may sound.

  2. gaddeswarup said...

    There is an interesting response from Peter Dorman

  3. karatalaamalaka said...

    Heard the same about 'boutique' PhD programs such as management (marketing strategy), accounting, etc. though they apparently do give extra credit for published papers.

    Btw, I think it is a generally interesting model. Economists and others circulate a 'working paper' among their peers before publications, like Arxiv for physics/math/CS. Perhaps they get more feedback that way than via anonymous journal peer reviewers who usually number around 5-6.

  4. Santosh Sali said...

    @Gaddeswarup , thanks for the link , that is insightful ,
    No wonder even in Indi a , everyone want to be associated with IIT/IIM .... I liked the comment , "Don’t worry, it’s sort of like AIDS. You can’t get it from casual contact" :-)