Replication is important. Many journals in economics, including Energy Economics, now insist on papers being published together with a replication package, and a few journals check that package prior to publication. This is a world apart from the common practice only a decade ago. However, the step change in replicability did not lead to a step change in replication.
Energy Economics has therefore published a special issue on replication. We particularly invited replication of older but prominent research, that is, papers that are frequently cited or used in policy making. This type of paper asks whether the old results stand up if newer data are added and methods are brought up to date, and if not why.
We also invited encompassing papers, taking a number of recent articles to check whether the results still hold if all the evidence is put together, comparing results across methods and data sets. No such papers were submitted to the special issue. Energy Economics now has “replication paper” as a new type of submission.
Fifty-seven papers were submitted to the special issue, of which twenty-four were accepted. One author of a replicated paper submitted a comment. Most rejections were because the paper did not add much beyond a replication. The referees, unfamiliar with replication papers, to a person drew a clear distinction between a replication paper that confirms the technical competence of the original authors and a replication paper that adds value.
Six of the twenty-three replications were unsuccessful. The relatively high success rate may be because energy economics is a mature field, and a modest one were few people chase headlines.
Two papers stand out. Jeffrey Racine’s paper reviews software tools that integrate data, analysis, and writing, so as to minimize errors and ensure internal consistency. Bruns and Koenig wrote a pre-replication plan and invited the author of the replicated paper, Stern, to join in the replication. In the resulting paper, they emphasize the importance of the pre-analysis plan to maximise objectivity and minimize conflict.
The special issue demonstrates that there is a supply of replication papers. Serious scholars are prepared to make the time and effort to take a piece of previous research, check whether it withstands scrutiny, and report their findings in a constructive and respectful manner. The special issue also shows that referees are able to tell quality and worthwhile replications from ones that are less so. It is too early to say whether these replication papers are cited and count towards promotion. Finally, the special issue reveals that publishers too can be moved towards replication.
To check out the special issue on replication at Energy Economics, click here.
Richard Tol is a professor of economics at the University of Sussex and professor of the economics of climate change at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. He is Editor-in-Chief at Energy Economics.