Getting early feedback on research ‘boosts final destination’

Study finds economics PhD students who sought extra comments and seminar presentations published in higher impact journals   

September 1, 2020
Finger pointing at positive feedback
Source: iStock/Tero Vesalainen

Getting feedback on a research paper before publication may sometimes seem like a laborious process that could hold up a project, especially to an academic in the early part of their career without an established peer network.

However, new scholarship presented at the European Economic Association’s annual conference suggests that it could have a material impact on where the study is finally published.

Asier Minondo, professor of economics at the University of Deusto in Spain, looked at research projects pursued by more than 2,000 PhD candidates at top economics departments in the US.

He found that after controlling for factors such as the quality of the author and research idea, papers that had more collective feedback – through seminars – or from individuals were more likely to end up in a higher-impact journal.

The effect was even greater if feedback was obtained from top scholars or if the paper was presented during a seminar at one of the higher ranked economics departments.

However, he found that presenting at a major conference made no significant difference to the publication outcome once the effects of individual feedback and seminars was factored in.

Professor Minondo says in his paper that from “from a policy perspective, these results justify the use of public funding to organise research seminars, interact with other scholars, and finance stays at top economics departments”.

Speaking to Times Higher Education, he added that the results would give encouragement to academics who sought more opportunities to share and discuss their work before submitting a paper.

“The most surprising result for me is how much peers’ comments contribute to the quality of a paper. The positive impact is very large,” he said, with only a 10 per cent increase in comments and seminar presentations leading to a paper being published in a journal with an impact factor that was 4 per cent higher.

He said that he selected PhD projects as his sample as it enabled him to control for the strength of research ideas; doctoral students select specific ideas to submit as their “job market” study to help them secure a postdoctoral position.

Professor Minondo said while it would be “reasonable to expect that feedback from colleagues is more important when a scholar is at an early stage of her career than at later stages”, he believed his findings were still relevant for all academics.

“My results refer to the marginal effects of peers’ comments, that is, what is the effect on the quality of a paper of having an additional scholar giving feedback on a paper, or presenting a paper at an additional research seminar.

“I think that [the effect of peers’ comments] should be similar for younger and older scholars, so [the] results indicate that more feedback from peers benefits both young and more experienced scholars.”

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