Let the Sun Shine In

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Economic Principals is in Chicago at the four-day meetings of the American Economic Association.

The single most interesting development was the adoption by the AEA’s Executive Committee of stringent new disclosure requirements for authors seeking to publish in the association’s seven journals, including the flagship American Economic Review.

Three stages are involved.

First, to journal editors, authors must identify interested parties from whom they have received sums totaling $10,000 or more over the previous three years, including consulting fees, retainers, grants, as well as in-kind support, such as access to data.

Unpaid positions must be noted, whether with nonprofit advocacy organizations or firms.

The same information must be supplied for authors’ partners and close relatives.

Parties with the right to prior review must also be named.

In most cases, this much will be closely held. Only in articles they choose to publish will editors will make public such potential conflicts as exist.

The executive committee exhorted economists to adopt the principles when writing for other academic journals, in print columns, broadcast commentaries and giving legislative testimony.

Hence the third stage:  will other economics journals, notably the Journal of Finance,  adopt a similar stance?

The new policy was drafted by a committee consisting of Robert Solow, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, chair; Derek Bok, of Harvard University; William Nordhaus, of Yale University; David Card, of the University of California at Berkeley; and Nancy Stokey, of the University of Chicago.

Although dissatisfaction has been growing in recent years about the incidence and extent of divided and unacknowledged loyalties among researchers, the new rule-making is widely viewed as having been precipitated by the success of Charles Ferguson’s documentary about the 2007-08 crisis, “Inside Job.”

Much reporting remains to be done on the nature of various temptations that have arison over the last several decades, from expert testimony to corporate directorships to political consultancies.  Mark Whitehouse, of Bloomberg News, has made a start.

More next week on the meetings themselves.