The Discussion Forum on Economic Methodology

Science advances not only by formal presentations that have been filtered through rigorous peer review, but also by informal chats and private communications among scientists. In the field of economic methodology the Journal of Economic Methodology, Economics and Philosophy, The Erasmus Journal of Economics and Methodology, and occasionally others provide outlets for formal communications. But for informal communications there are fewer provisions.  This is inefficient, particularly for economists whose specialty is methodology, and for philosophers whose specialty is economics, as most lack similarly specialized colleagues in their own departments.

INEM has therefore decided to facilitate a discussion forum, somewhat along the lines of the economic historians’ eh.net. Professor Tom Mayer (University of California, Davis) has agreed to oversee and lightly edit this Forum. He will be assisted by Dr Michiru Nagatsu (University of Helsinki).

We envision the Forum as consisting of several types of contributions, though we are certainly open to additional types. One is comments on previous contributions to the Forum and on methodological papers or developments that have appeared elsewhere. With journals having virtually eliminated “Comments” sections, or in the case of newer journals never instituted them, such an outlet for criticisms will fill an empty niche.

Another type is a conjecture or a research idea that its originator does not work up into a full-scale journal paper because he or she lacks the time to attempt a rigorous development or got stuck. It would be efficient for all if such ideas were put into the light of day for others to possibly pick up. What the originator would gain is a mention in the standard “the author is indebted to” footnote.

Presenting such ideas might involve anything from a single paragraph to several pages. And they need not necessarily be “ideas” in the narrow sense of the term. Someone might have developed a new data set to test a certain hypothesis., then find that it cannot be tested that way, and hence have data not useful to themselves but potentially valuable to someone else.

A third type is a  brief note drawing attention to something economic methodologists should know but are unlikely to  hear about. This could involve interesting new discoveries from the archival papers of important thinkers, or insights from discussions in other fields that appear to have applications in economic methodology.

A fourth type is to warn colleagues away from a failed research project that one has tried. There is less scope for this in methodology than in econometrics, but “less” does not mean zero.

And then, there are book notes and book reviews. In a field that draws on such a widely scattered literature as the methodology of economics, book reviews and brief “books received” notes, as carried, for example, in  the Journal of Economic Literature, are especially useful.

Finally, the Forum can also carry personal matters, such as listing job changes, retirements, etc. (as the AER did at one time), and even jokes about economic methodology.

Although submissions to the Forum will not be peer reviewed in the usual sense, submissions will be screened to exclude the rudeness and personal attacks that infect some blogs. They will also be screened to exclude obvious nonsense and ideological ranting, They might also be rejected for being too long (over 1,000 words in most cases) or too far outside the area of economic methodology.

Please contact Michiru Nagatsu (michiru.nagatsu ‘at’ helsinki ‘dot’ fi) if you want to contribute to the forum.

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