Wednesday, May 9, 2012

On the Job for 100 Issues of JEP

I was hired by Joseph Stiglitz 26 years ago to start a new economics journal, the Journal of Economic Perspectives. It took us a year from the starting line to mailing our first issue in the mail, but the Spring 2012 issue, now available on-line, is the 100th issue. Like all issues of JEP back to 1994, it is freely available to all, courtesy of the American Economic Association. The first three articles are about the journal: one by current editor David Autor on the effect of the journal within the economics profession, one by Joe Stiglitz remembering the early years and commenting on how the journal has evolved, and one by me called "From the Desk of the Managing Editor."

Here are the two opening paragraphs and the closing paragraph of my essay:

"Editing isn’t “teaching” and it isn’t “research,” so in the holy trinity of academic responsibilities it is apparently bunched with faculty committees, student advising, and talks to the local Kiwanis club as part of “service.” Yet for many economists, editing seems to loom larger in their professional lives. After all, EconLit indexes more than 750 academic journals of economics, which require an ever-shifting group of editors, co-editors, and advisory boards to function. Roughly one-third of the books in the annotated listings at the back of each issue of the Journal of Economic Literature are edited volumes.

Editors are gatekeepers, and editors are road-blocks—or perhaps these are essentially the same task. Editors shape “the literature,” both what and who is included and how it is presented. I’ve come to believe that “editing” is no more susceptible to a compact single defifi nition than “manufacturing” or “services.” But here is one take on the enterprise of editing from someone who has been sitting in the Managing Editor’s chair for all 100 issues of the Journal of Economic Perspectives since before the first issue of the journal mailed in Summer 1987. ...

My job as Managing Editor of JEP has been a pride and a pleasure for these last 25 years. It’s consistently interesting work: after all, my job is to do close readings of the highly varied work of a succession of prominent economists who are trying to explain their thinking—and then to ask them questions until they explain it all to me! Editing an academic journal also offers the psychic frisson of leaving something behind: 100 issues and counting, to be precise. When I visit another college or university, I sometimes walk through the periodical stacks just to see JEP on the shelf. Running an academic journal for a long time offers a pleasing sense of place within the discipline of economics, spinning a web of personal contacts from the up-and-comers to the well-established in academic institutions around the world. Some of my friends refer to my job at the journal as “the guy who gets thanked” at the end of articles. There are worse epitaphs."