Guidelines for Referees

Econometrica Guidelines for Referees

We are working hard to improve the service that Econometrica provides to the profession. To this end, we request that our referees follow these guidelines:

  • We would like to receive your referee report within six weeks (or by the reasonably close date of your choosing). We know this is a tight deadline, but we believe we should be doing better to improve our publishing process. Please do not agree to referee this paper if you cannot meet this deadline. And if you’ve refereed this paper before, please bring that to the attention of the co-editor immediately.
  • Be professional in your criticism and generous with your praise. Although you should be frank in your assessment of the paper in the confidential letter to the co-editor, it is important that the referee report itself is professional and does not contain gratuitous or irrelevant criticisms. Authors work hard on their submissions and unnecessarily harsh comments diminish us as a profession.
  • We encourage you to divide your report into THREE sections: Summary, Essential Points, and Suggestions.
     
    • Summary: a brief summary of how you see the contribution of the paper. This lets the Editor know how you interpret the paper, and puts later comments in context.  The summary also clarifies whether everyone is on the same page. If the paper is unclear, the referee may have missed some key element.
       
    • Essential Points: If you are recommending a revise & resubmit (or are close to the fence), you should explain what is necessary to meet the bar in this section. The more precise the better. The list of critical revisions should generally include no more than three items, and preferably fewer. If more critical revisions are required, the paper should probably be rejected. If you are in fact recommending rejection, this section can explain the main problem(s). Here you should also state if (and how) the paper can be made shorter. Which results should be prioritized, and which should be cut? Can the paper be made more succinct, and the proofs shorter, if the results are less general? The report should suggest only extensions that are essential for the paper at hand. Any additional request can lead the paper to become bloated. In particular, suggestions to add material in the form of extra appendices (especially supplementary online ones) should be avoided.
       
    • Suggestions: everything else. Not all comments are essential to address. This is the authors’ paper. Given the convex returns in our profession, authors want to write the best possible paper and they should have a fair amount of discretion in doing so. Nevertheless, all of us can benefit from the suggestions of expert reviewers, and in this part of the report the reviewer is providing a service to the authors. We view this section as including 70% of what is in a traditional referee report.

To be clear, we see this as a very small, easy-to-implement change: simply add two lines “Essential Points” and “Suggestions” to your referee report in the appropriate places, and organize your comments accordingly.

  • We are not looking for long referee reports. Two or three pages should be enough for most papers. Adding more comments in the ``suggestions’’ part of the report is appreciated, but not essential, and should not come at the expense of a timely report. We’ve found this article by Jonathan Berk, Campbell Harvey, and David Hirshleifer (JEP 2017) to be helpful in shaping what we look for in a referee report, in case you are interested.

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