There is considerable concern among scholars that empirical papers face a drastically smaller chance of being published if the results looking to confirm an established theory turn out to be statistically insignificant. Such a publication bias can provide a wrong picture of economic magnitudes and mechanisms.
Against this background, the journal FinanzArchiv/Public Finance Analysis recently posted a call for papers for a special issue on “Insignificant Results in Public Finance”. The editors are inviting the submission of carefully executed empirical papers that – despite using state of the art empirical methods – fail to find significant estimates for important economic effects that have widespread acceptance.
It has been estimated that studies in economic behavioral research and psychology are ten times more likely to be published if they present statistically significant effects. Because a significant result may happen by chance, too much weight is attributed to them in the scientific literature. The associated publication bias can produce overestimates of the effectiveness of economic policy measures, psychological impacts or even medical medications.
While several ways to address this issue exist, a correction that is most directly related to the problem concerns the attitude of the scientific editors. Publication bias and the negative incentives for researchers are tackled at the root when studies are assessed on the basis of the methodology used and the quality of the data — and not on the results obtained. It requires a certain self-commitment of the journals to the increased publication of so-called “non-significant” results. Such a self-commitment was recently submitted by the editors of FinanzArchiv/Public Finance Analysis and is reflected in its call for papers.
The deadline for submissions to the special issue is 15 September 2017. Papers can be uploaded here: Submitting authors should indicate that their paper is being submitted to the special issue “Insignificant Results in Public Finance”. The editors would like to note that if any insignificant results transform into statistically significant results as an outcome of the refereeing process, this will not be held as an argument against publication. In this case, the paper may be shifted into a different issue of the Journal.
FinanzArchiv was first published in 1884, which makes it one of the world’s oldest professional journals in economics and the oldest journal of public finance. The current editors are Katherine Cuff, Ronnie Schöb and Alfons Weichenrieder. Within public economics, a strong focus is on topics as taxation, public debt, public goods, public choice, federalism, market failure, social policy and the welfare state.
Alfons Weichenrieder is Professor of Economics and Public Finance at Goethe-University Frankfurt and a guest research professor at the Institute of International Taxation of Vienna University of Economics and Business. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.