VoxEU Column Frontiers of economic research

Welcome to Ökonomenstimme, our new Consortium partner

A new member of the Vox Consortium – the German-language site Ökonomenstimme (meaning “economists’ voice”) – goes public today. This column outlines its vision.

The Editors of Vox welcome the newest member of the Consortium – the German language site Ökonomenstimme. The team that set up the site is led by Gebhard Kirchgässner (University of St. Gallen) and Jan-Egbert Sturm (KOF Swiss Economic Institute, ETH Zurich). Ökonomenstimme is operated by the independent KOF Swiss Economic Institute at ETH Zurich.

The goal of Ökonomenstimme (German for “economists’ voice”) is to set up a German-language forum that helps close the gap between economic researchers and a broader audience. That audience includes government economists, international organisations, academia, and the private sector as well as journalists specialising in economics, finance and business in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. Ökonomenstimme also would like to address politicians and people interested in economic issues in German-speaking countries.

Vox’s expanding consortium

The expansion of the Consortium to include a German-language site is a great step in the direction of the Consortium’s goal of raising the level of public policy discussion by making research-based analysis and commentary more accessible to the informed public and bringing a wider range of researchers into the debate by lowering the entry barriers.

Enlargement of the Consortium will assure that the best contributions are translated into an expanding array of languages thus reaching further into the policymaking world. Despite English’s ascendancy on the web, only a narrow slice of professional economists are completely at ease with English. More analysis will be read and understood if it is presented in a wide range of languages. In this way, good research-based policy commentary and analysis should reach deeper into the global policy-making machinery than, for example, a Financial Times Personal View. Moreover, unlike many opinion-pieces in the print media, columns posted on the Consortium are freely downloadable – no subscription is required.

The need for sites like Ökonomenstimme

Major advances in theoretical and empirical economics now allow economists to address policy issues with much more realistic tools. With all these excellent tools at hand, one might have expected the newspapers and Parliamentary debates to be filled with new insights, new results, and new approaches.

This is not the case. With few exceptions, the public debate on economic policy is still stuck in simplistic pro- versus anti-market exchanges.

The problem arises to a large part from the incentives the world’s best economic researchers face. Today’s brilliant young economists are much less interested in participating in the public debate. Young people need publications in good anonymously-reviewed journals; everything else is a luxury. Some European economics departments pay a bonus thousands of euros to faculty who get publications into top journals. Writing an influential analysis of a legislative policy proposal gets a pat on the back.

But what VoxEU.org has found is that even the busiest and best researchers in the world are interested in contributing their knowledge to improving policy formulation. The problem was that they didn’t have a good outlet for their views that would allow them to contribute without an inordinate time cost. Policy portals like Vox and now Ökonomenstimme provide such an outlet.

These sites help raise the level of the policy debate by making it easier for researchers to draw out the policy implications of their work in a setting that is more informal than articles but less constrained than newspaper columns – something like the Brookings Papers for the New Century.

What VoxEU.org and other consortium members have also found is that there is a very large demand for such writings. Being in English, Vox has an advantage in the world where English is the linga fraca – Vox receives about 30,000 distinct visitors a day. Each month, Vox gets over 2 million page views.

We believe that Ökonomenstimme will also find this niche is occupied by willing writers and eager readers. Ökonomenstimme – welcome onboard!


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