Is a Credibility Crisis on the Horizon for Agricultural Economics

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AAEA members release new research in AEPP

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Over 37% of the published effects in agricultural economics are exaggerated by a factor of two or more, and 18% are exaggerated by a factor of more than four.

In the article “Credibility Crisis in Agricultural Economics” published in the Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, Paul Ferraro, from Johns Hopkins University and Pallavi Shukla from Deakin University find out how common research practices can undermine the credibility of empirical analyses.

Ferraro says, “The agricultural economics community needs to change its publication incentive structure, which prioritizes the 'publishability' of research results over the credibility of research designs. Agricultural economics has a classic problem of misaligned incentives, a problem about which we economists know a lot. Rigorous research in science is imperfect, often finds null results, and rarely answers a novel question neatly or conclusively. These study attributes, however, are not rewarded in agricultural economics. Instead, they are penalized."

Shukla added, “As a field, we can change the publication incentive structure through a range of actions. For example, journal editors and peer reviewers ought to stress research designs over novelty or magnitude of results. They should encourage the use of pre-registration and pre-analysis plans that limit strategic choices during data analysis. Journals should reward replications of prior studies by publishing them (as this AEPP special issue does), and they should commit to publishing results from well-powered tests that show small or null effects. Finally, the agricultural economics community needs to do a better job of teaching the ethics of empirical research to both junior and senior researchers. Creating stronger norms for statistical research is important because even if we changed the incentive structure for publications, we would still need to rely on researchers to self-monitor their research decisions.”

If you are interested in setting up an interview regarding their findings, please contact Allison Ware in the AAEA Business Office.

ABOUT AAEA: Established in 1910, the Agricultural & Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations, and engage in a variety of research, teaching, and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health, and international development. The AAEA publishes three journals, the Journal of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (an open access journal), the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives & Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. To learn more, visit http://www.aaea.org.

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