On the paucity of new ideas and the paradox of choice in modern research

Economist Writing Every Day

I was once told that papers are never finished, only surrendered. It’s one of those turns of phrase who’s observational accuracy has only increased. I don’t know that I’ve felt good about submitting a paper for review in over a decade, and that includes the one’s that were accepted and subsequently published.

When I submitted papers early in my career I felt great. There was both a sense of accomplishment and eagerness to learn what the reviewers might think, a hopeful optimism. That eagerness didn’t reflect overwhelming confidence so much as naivete as to what the review process entailed. Now I know too much.

What I know, what Ialways know, is that more could be done. More alternative empirical specifications could be added to the robustness section. Newer models could be considered for the underlying mechanism. Older models too. Different literatures could be engaged and contended with. Summary…

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