High research productivity is crucial for IFN's success. With few exceptions, all IFN research is first published in the IFN Working Paper Series. Yet the true quality of a specific research paper cannot be determined until it has been suitably published (in a journal, collective volume, or as a research monograph). Eventually, an unpublished Working Paper is usually of little value.
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But judging research is not easy. There are many different types of publishing channels that have to be weighed against each other. Ideally, IFN research is published in the highest-ranked peer-reviewed journals of economics possible. This requires a great degree of originality, craft, and accuracy, but also the presentation of articles at leading international conferences and seminars to make one’s research known among the foremost researchers in the field.
How should research output be measured? Citations are most frequently used, but is it necessarily true that the most (least) cited research is also the best (worst) research? Can we assume that all important research results are published in refereed journals or should we also include monographs, book chapters, and textbooks? Is it sufficient to evaluate research based on which journal an article is published in or how many citations it gets? How do we handle the fact that many more articles are published in some subdisciplines and hence get more citations? How do we assess a researcher who has published one short article in a top-ranked journal relative to a researcher with several frequently cited articles in field journals of relatively low rank? How do we handle problems arising from changes in journal rankings and overall competition? Should we give weight to impact outside academia, such as on policymaking or the policy debate?
The measures chosen signal what type of research is valued. The shortcomings and caveats of a particular measure may be discussed and due caution requested, but in practice such provisos tend to be largely overlooked. In the end, the raw number remains. Researchers gradually become increasingly aware of what is measured—which, in turn, results in a strong tendency to do what is measured. Several dimensions are involved: the choice of topic, method, preferred publication outlet, etc. Hence, the very choice of measure may inadvertently become an important determinant of what research is done, and these effects are unlikely to be transitory. This tendency is reinforced if universities, departments, and research councils use a certain metric when making decisions about hiring, promotion, and the allocation of funds (Holcombe 2004; Oswald 2007).
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