Andrew Gelman is having an interesting discussion with himself about why he should continue publishing in journals (here and here; apparently Columbia University doesn't feel the need to make sure that you are maintain "research active" status after tenure). Here is how he describes the publishing environment in economics and political science:
Economics seems much more well organized (for better and for worse) than statistics. They have a few journals that are almost universally agreed to be the best, and it seems that papers published in these places automatically get attention.
Parallel to this is a network of popular economics bloggers that has no real parallel in any other academic field. I mean, sure, if I happen to blog a new paper, people will read it, but I’m just one guy and I don’t try to cover the field or even all of Bayesian statistics. In contrast, economics has a bunch of blogs that are a lot more popular than ours and which regularly plug and argue about new published work.
Political science doesn’t have this density of blogging but it does have a recognized set of top journals.
The other thing that helps is that economists and political scientists typically publish less than statisticians, or at least it seems that way to me. In these social science fields, a paper gets workshopped for awhile before submission, then there can be a grueling review process. This is a pain in the ass but it does have the effect of reducing the rate at which papers get published.
Still, a lot of work in social science, especially in policy analysis, never gets published in journals. There’s lots of information in Gallup reports, Pew reports, various documents prepared by organizations doing studies in different countries, etc etc. This stuff gets emailed around but can be hard to find if you don’t know where to look.
That sounds accurate to me.
One reason I need to keep publishing (at a rate of 2+ every five years) is so my teaching load doesn't increase from 3/3 to 4/4. Is that how they do it in the Ivy League?
The other reason that I keep trying to publish is that I can't get these stupid papers out of my head until they are typeset in journal format. My stupid "workplan" has a long list of potential papers that I have data for and a neat little result. This is the list of papers that I'll probably never write, that don't have the potential to hit a second tier environmental/resource economics journal, but I can't seem to bring myself to delete from the workplan. Sometimes this stupid papers get magnified so much in my head that they take control and crowd out work that has more potential. This is what is commonly known as an inefficient research strategy: driving the marginal benefits down to zero when the marginal costs are rising. And this post is a cry for help. I need help.