Asia Economics Blog


Moderator:  Calla Wiemer (


Nudging Asian Economists toward Open Access

The mechanisms by which research findings are disseminated and gain influence are changing. Yet the metrics by which we assess scholarly contribution are lodged in the past, particularly among universities and research institutions in Asia. Looking ahead, the rapid pace of growth in economic research in this region affords an opening to move smartly to new ways of sharing work and recognizing achievement.

Larry Summers put his finger on the transformation in a talk at the Peterson Institute (7:18): “Keynes has a famous line about everything that policymakers say or do is a reflection of a defunct academic scribbler … now everything that a policymaker does is from a blog or a substack ….” Blog posts get a researcher’s message out in succinct form, available at the click of a link and transmissable at lightening speed through social media. Of course, serious research requires more than the thousand or so words of a blog post to fully articulate. The blog post then serves as a promotional vehicle. All the same, in the internet age the full length article need be no less accessible or transmissable than the blog post. Why, then, are most research articles locked behind paywalls erected by corporate publishers, with "staggeringly profitable" Elsevier in particular able to dominate the field? The answer has a lot to do with how universities and research institutions measure and reward accomplishment, allowing profit-oriented corporations to set the terms.

Ideally, research would be recognized on the basis of its influence on our understanding of the world and approach to policymaking. But contributions of this sort take time to play out and even then do not lend themselves to easy calibration. The research community therefore relies on proxies involving selective journal lists and citation metrics to mark achievement, and indeed the proxies have taken on such moment that publishing in a high impact-factor journal on a vaunted list has come to be regarded as the end goal in itself.

Authority over which journals make the prevailing lists and which do not has, oddly, been ceded by economic researchers to Elsevier and Clarivate, corporations motivated to serve shareholders rather than researchers. Elsevier's conflict of interest is apparent in that its own journals are among those found on its Scopus list. More oddly still, economists accept an untenable Scopus rank ordering that, for example, places within the top 10 economics journals the Journal of Supply Chain Management and Structural Equation Modeling even as the revered Quarterly Journal of Economics does not make the list of 450 journals at all. As for Clarivate's Social Science Citation Index, which is limited to 296 economics journals, a paid subscription is required for viewing.

Reliance on Elsevier and Clarivate for journal metrics is not for lack of a better alternative in the field of economics. RePEc (Research Papers in Economics), a service of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, provides rankings, indexing, and content listings not only for journals, but for working paper series, books, and even blogs. Reassuringly, its journal rankings accord well with established sensibilities. Moreoever, ranking methodology is transparent and any journal can be added for the asking with 2635 journals now covered.

One other body, the Australian Business Dean's Council (ABDC), has gained influence in Asia in the journal ranking game. Its most recent ranking in 2022 covered 681 economics journals. ABDC rankings are by four strata and are arrived at under a discretionary process by teams of academics convened at multi-year intervals. In recognition of the limitations of the ABDC ranking system, and indeed any journal ranking system, an accompanying report (p. 4) advises the following:

... journal lists should be a starting point only for assessing publication quality and should not constrain researchers to a particular domain. In the end, there is no substitute for assessing individual articles on a case-by-case basis.  

What a boon it would be for the economics profession if researchers and their institutional overseers took this advice to heart. Such a break with current practice would reduce barriers to entry in journal publishing and afford space for a model based on open access and no author fees to thrive. Although Elsevier and other corporate publishers have yielded incrementally to pressure to offer open-access options, fees paid by individuals can run to thousands of dollars per article. In a bellwether standoff, the University of California system halted its Elsevier subscriptions for two and a half years, finally reaching an agreement with the publisher in 2021 to make all articles by UC researchers open access under a scheme that preserved revenue to Elsevier at its 2018 level. The growing number of such agreements now extends to bodies in Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. Following the UC model, Elsevier has managed to negotiate the preservation of revenue streams rooted in print-based costs of journal production and dissemination only because it has so effectively warded off market competition.

In this day and age, regardless of where economics articles are published they are easily discoverable through key word or author searches on Google Scholar and RePEc, which have long since eclipsed more narrowly focused search tools aimed at creating barriers to entry (Elsevier and Clarivate again being the prime culprits). Both Google Scholar and RePEc provide citation counts based on more comprehensive databases than Scopus and SSCI to generate article-based measures of impact that stand apart from journal titles.

Three open-access, no-fee economics journals focused on Asia are highlighted in the table below. Two rely on institutional owners to fund the costs of a corporate publisher: the Asian Development Review owned by the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Journal of Economics and Banking owned by Hochiminh University of Banking. More unconventionally, Asian Economics Letters is owned by an enterprising professor and published by the Asia-Pacific Applied Economics Association (APAEA) with funding from members and sponsors. APAEA handles the mechanics of peer review and prepares the published product using the web-based software platform Scholastica. The modest numbers of articles being published by these journals suggest ample room to grow.

Journal Details Survey Statement to Researchers
Asian Development Review (RePEc)
owner: Asian Development Bank
publisher: World Scientific
founding: 1972
papers in 2022: 18
“Covers all countries in the ADB region, with gold open access and a 50 year history of publishing.”
Asian Economics Letters (RePEc) (2500 word max)
owner: Paresh Narayan, Monash University
publisher: Asia-Pacific Applied Economics Association
platform: Scholastica
founding: 2021
papers in 2022: 21
“Encourages submissions from lesser known authors as well and provides a forum – through appropriate peer review – to publish papers regardless of your geographical location and institutional affiliation.”
Asian Journal of Economics and Banking (RePEc)
owner: Hochiminh University of Banking
publisher: Emerald
founding: 2017
papers in 2022: 24
Others? Enter info into survey here and notify This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  

Our most meaningful reward as researchers is to have our work seen and gain influence. Our work can reach a wider audience if published open access. To really make a mark, we may take a cue from Larry Summers and encapsulate our message in a blog post.

3 journal imag 20231217 163908 1

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