ALTHOUGH EDITORS PROVIDE YEARLY REPORTS, the last published statement by an editor to the membership of the society and authors and readers of the journal (that I have found) appeared in 1983. I have learned in the past few years how difficult it is to have a coherent vision for a journal. However, as the profession and the journal evolve, it seems worth reiterating some of the society’s basic premises and discussing how the development of the profession may have impacted the journal’s positions.
As a leading journal of economics, Econometrica should publish novel, substantial, insightful, rigorous, and carefully crafted analytical work in all domains of economics, broadly interpreted. The emphasis is important: we do not want to restrict to some subfields and we would like to accept papers on the frontier of economics, including papers in which that frontier touches upon other disciplines. The Econometric Society and its journal started as a place for leading work using statistical and mathematical methods, for unifying the theoretical-quantitative and empirical-quantitative approach, and for studies that are penetrated by rigorous thinking.1 This goal of publishing the most insightful formal papers regardless of subfield continues through today.
It is also extremely important to maintain the high level of rigor and analysis that has been a hallmark of the journal. That certainly does not mean that work must make a methodological contribution for it to be published. It means that we will insist upon thorough and careful analysis of the issues studied. At the same time, we observe that economics has followed in the footsteps of the founders of this society, with mathematics becoming the primary language for such analysis. Naturally we intend to continue to take a leading role in developing the tools and the language that will provide the foundations for future work in economics.
Indeed, Econometrica has successfully maintained its position as the leading journal for work that makes methodological contributions, and as such is the premier outlet for work in economic theory and in theoretical econometrics. However, the increased openness of other leading journals to more mathematically challenging papers has lead to healthy competition for the best such work. We aim to attract the best work in these areas and hold them to the exacting standards we have always applied.
I believe we are typically the first journal approached by authors with high-quality work in these areas and I would like to strongly encourage authors in these areas to continue sending us their best work. Their willingness to do so is what underlies the success the journal has had. In turn, I believe the journal has played a role in developing these areas, and it is important we continue to fill that role. Although we surely make mistakes in our reviewing process, we try to contribute to the authors and our readers by providing prompt, exceptionally thoughtful, and constructive reviews. I personally have enjoyed greatly the process of working with the many authors whose papers I have handled.
In addition to papers in economic theory and theoretical econometrics, the journal has successfully published over the years excellent papers of many other types, including experimental work, applied theory, empirical research, and simulations, all of which touch upon a wide range of topics. Regrettably, the journal does not have the same presence in these other areas. The journal—meaning its readers and authors—would benefit from increased publication of leading work in all areas of economics.Naturally, we aim to maintain the same exacting high standards for all work published in Econometrica, but I think authors of work, in all these areas will appreciate our review and publication process, and I strongly encourage authors of the best work, regardless of field, to send us their manuscripts.
Just as we would never reject a paper for using advanced mathematics, we would not reject it for not doing so. At the risk of using too many adjectives, our primary goal must be to publish work that is imaginative, that offers insights on important issues, and that inspires and guides future research. Methodological contributions that provide us with new ways to look at and solve a problem can achieve this goal, but so have and will data from the lab and outside of it, as well as applications of existing theoretical and econometric techniques. We look forward to receiving the best analytically rigorous papers in economics, and will do our best to have them reviewed by the leading experts in the field.
It is apt to end with Schumpeter’s concluding comments in the first issue of the journal:
We should not indulge in high hopes of producing rapidly results of immediate use to economic policy or business practice. Our aims are first and last scientific.We do not stress the numerical aspects just because we think that it leads right up to the core of the burning questions of the day, but rather because we expect, from constant endeavor to cope with the difficulties of numerical work, a wholesome discipline, the suggestions of new points of view, and help in building up the economic theory of the future. But we believe, of course, that indirectly the quantitative approach will be of great practical consequence. The only way to a position in which our science might give positive advice on a large scale to politicians and business men leads thorough quantitative work. For as long as we are unable to put our arguments into figures, the voice of our science, though occasionally it may help to dispel gross errors, will never be heard by practical men. They are, by instinct, econometricians all of them, in their distrust of anything not amenable to exact proof. (Joseph Schumpeter, “The Common Sense of Econometrics,” Econometrica, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 1933, 5–12.)
1 See “Editorial,” Econometrica, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 1933, 1–3.