Registered Reports: Piloting a Pre-Results Review Process at the Journal of Development Economics

This post, written by JDE Editors Andy Foster, Dean Karlan, and CEGA Faculty Director Ted Miguel, was originally published on the World Bank’s Development Impact blog.

Credit: Joshua Newton

The world is a messy place. What happens when the results of an empirical study are mushy or inconsistent with prevailing theories? Unfortunately, papers with unclear or statistically insignificant results often go unpublished, even if they have rigorous research designs and good data. In such cases, the research community is typically only left to consider the papers that tell a “neat” and clean story. When economic and social policy relies on academic knowledge, this publication bias can be costly to society.

In a new effort to potentially help address this problem, the Journal of Development Economics (JDE) now offers authors the opportunity to have their prospective empirical projects reviewed and approved for publication before the results are known. This track for article submissions will be available as part of a pilot project, which will allow us to better understand the extent to which pre-results review can be applied at the JDE, and possibly in economics as a whole. This new article format may not apply to all papers currently being published at the JDE; we envision that it will be particularly attractive to development economists working on research projects for which the data is yet to be collected (or researchers who have not yet had access to the data they will analyze).

To our knowledge, this appears to be among the first attempts to introduce pre-results peer review in an economics journal. However, more than 90 academic journals in biology, medicine, political science, psychology, and other disciplines are already implementing pre-results review, with the subsequent published articles usually called ‘Registered Reports’ (RRs). We have tried to learn from their efforts in preparation for this pilot, and are coordinating our activities with the Berkeley Initiative for Transparency in the Social Sciences (BITSS) to help support authors and referees during this pilot phase…

To read the complete blog post, see here.

Please contact Aleksandar Bogdanoski (abogdanoski@berkeley.edu), BITSS Associate, with questions about study pre-registration, pre-analysis plans and how to submit your article for pre-results review.