Career Structures in Economics

The aim of this initiative is to provide an understanding of whether current career structures promote the selection and retention of talent among academic economists, and to provide concrete and feasible policy recommendations to the EEA to further its mission to contribute to the development and application of economics as a science in Europe.

We invite research proposals that offer either applied theoretical or empirical insights on the relationship between the structure of academic careers and the selection, advancement and retention of talent in economics. Funding support for research proposal is available as proposed below.

Why Career Structures

Career structures relate to how talent is attracted to economics, rewarded within the discipline (through tenure systems and the publications process), and retained. Having the best talent represented, rewarded and retained in the profession is both of intrinsic value, and can aid the advancement of economics more generally - especially as the discipline has moved to new forms of production for academic research, and continued to expand the set of societal issues studied by economists.

Scope of the Initiative

The initiative aims to harness and apply the tools of economic analysis to understand how career structures (from undergraduate to full professor) can be improved in the discipline (or indeed whether the current structures are well designed).

Which questions should proposals address?

Questions include but are not limited to:
1. Does the timing and structure of tenure decisions put women at a disadvantage? If so, can the tenure process be modified to ensure greater equality of opportunity?
2. What are the costs and benefits of pre-doc programs? Do they expand opportunities for underrepresented groups, or do they raise the barriers for admission into PhD programs? Can they change the balance between theoretical and applied research conducted in economics?
3. What are the costs and benefits of the increased use of postdocs in economics? What are the general equilibrium impacts of such changes in career structure, and are these beneficial for the profession as a whole?
4. Can the publications process be reformed to address concerns such as long publication lags or the "tyranny of the top-5"? Would moving to a norm whereby individuals can simultaneously submit a paper to multiple journals help in this regard, and how might this affect career paths?
5. Do career structures and incentives economics reflect the rise of team based production of academic research?

We recognize these policy problems can be interrelated to each other. However, we expect successful proposals will provide a structured analysis of one of these problems, and present concrete policy recommendations to the EEA. The EEA can, at a later stage, consider the interlinkages between each issue (and proposed solutions)

Are some topics out of the scope of the initiative?

We are not requesting empirical work that documents the extent of under representation or describes the issues above - these are relatively well documented in earlier work - for example the CSWEP Annual Survey and RES have published detailed statistics on these issues. Rather empirical proposals should be able to provide evidence on the underlying causes and consequences of existing policies, and suggest clear and feasible policy reforms. An example of the kind of work we have in mind is Antecol et al. [2018, AER] on the impact of gender neutral tenure clocks on tenure rates among men and women economics faculty in the US, or Jones [2021, JEP ] on the rise of team production in economics.

Will the EEA take on board the recommendations?

The EEA will consider policy recommendations arising from commissioned proposals, but is not committed to endorse them.

These recommendations can relate to institutional changes the EEA can help promote or coordinate, or to make clear the kinds of data that need to be collected in order for policy recommendations to be taken forward.

Is this only about Economics in Europe??

Some policy problems can be addressed largely by economics departments alone. Others require more coordination with other departments in the same university. Proposals can take a range of viewpoints - from those focused on what is economics-specific, to those with a focus across disciplines.

As career structures vary across (and even within) countries, proposals that focus on a specific country/region are encouraged. In each case, proposals should pay particular attention to the practicalities of implementing policy proposals, including ensuring permanent and widespread change or adoption of better practices.

Does the initiative provide funding?

The EEA in partnership with the Hub for Equal Representation at the LSE can offer financial support up to € 20,000 per project.

What is the timeline?

Research proposals will be evaluated by a committee appointed by the EEA executive. If required, proposals can include a request for research support up to € 20,000. The call is now open and proposals can be sent in until January 30, 2022. Selected proposals will then be invited to present preliminary ideas both to the EEA Executive Committee and at the EEA Congress in summer 2022. The final findings can then be prepared for the following year, with the option open of organizing a workshop around the final proposals in summer 2023. The editors at JEEA will consider collating the best proposals into a refereed special issue of JEEA later in 2023/early 2024.

How to apply

To apply, please fill out the application form here