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Interview with Robert Flood: IMF Staff Papers has a new look

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
January 2002
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IMF Survey: When you took over in 1999, the IMF decided that economists did not need to offer their Working Papers to Staff Papers before offering them to outside journals. Was that your decision, and has it hurt the journal?

Flood: That was a condition that I imposed for my taking over Staff Papers, and here’s the reason. It doesn’t encourage research to force all IMF staff to submit their work to Staff Papers.That’s crazy. There used to be a policy that all Working Papers had to be submitted to Staff Papers. If researchers wanted to publish their work elsewhere, they would not bring their papers out as Working Papers but would just send them to outside journals. As a result, no one at the IMF knew about those papers. Instead of having good work circulate in the IMF, that policy kept us from finding out about good research being done here. It was a really counterproductive policy.

IMF Survey: At the same time, you introduced the use of expert referees. How has this affected the quality and credibility of the journal?

Flood: Over time, I am certain that the use of outside referees will improve the quality of the journal. Before I came on board, there was no outside peer review in Staff Papers. Staff would submit their papers, and the Editorial Committee would have somebody read them carefully and write up a short report. Now, the comments that our authors receive are excellent, much better than from any other journal I’ve been involved with. Perhaps that has to do with the fact that we pay our experts quite well—the referees’ median turnaround time is about 30 days. That’s fantastic by economic journal standards.

IMF Survey: Exactly what role does the IMF see for Staff Papers?

Flood: Staff Papers is seen as a vehicle for staff to publish their research, like a perk for staff. To the extent that it ends up being a good academic journal, that’s a bonus. There are plenty of other outlets for staff who want to publish their work outside the IMF, but outsiders can’t publish in Staff Papers unless we let them.

IMF Survey: Have any seminal studies been published in Staff Papers?

Flood: IMF Staff Papers has published a variety of economics classics—papers that make most graduate reading lists—spanning the intellectual space from the effects of devaluation (Alexander) to the early papers developing the Mundell-Fleming model (Mundell and Fleming). Widely cited work that may someday graduate to “classic” status involves analysis of flexible exchange rates, growth, monetary rules, and the balance of payments. A bunch of wonderful new papers explore and explain “crisis economics” from the 1980s debt crisis to the more recent balance of payments and banking crises.

IMF Staff Papers: a look inside

IMF Staff Papers—the IMF’s research journal—contains theoretical and empirical papers produced by IMF staff and invited guests. Since its creation in 1950, the journal has published over 1,000 papers. Papers are selected on the basis of their interest to academics and policymakers in the member countries of the IMF and cover a wide range of topics.

The three most recent issues are Volume 48, Numbers 1, 2, and 3. Volume 48, Number 1, includes articles on, for example, threshold effects in the relationship between inflation and growth, as well as the monetary transmission mechanism in Japan; Volume 48, Number 2, contains papers dealing with product variety and growth, and forest management, among others; and Volume 48, Number 3, includes papers on the 1956 Suez crisis and on the global current account discrepancy. A special issue of Staff Papers, containing a collection of some of the papers presented at the First Annual IMF Research Conference, held in Washington, D.C., on November 9 and 10, 2000, was published in December 2001.

The topics covered included monetary and exchange rate policy in crisis situations, private sector involvement in crisis resolution, exchange rate regimes and currency unions, and effects of adjustment programs.

The annual subscription rate is $56 for three regular issues a year, plus one special issue. There is a lower rate for full-time professors and students of universities and colleges. Requests for subscriptions and orders should be sent to IMF Publication Services (see page 45 for details).

IMF Survey: What topics are you looking at? Will research become more policy oriented?

Flood: It just depends on what the staff wants to do. I don’t orient the journal in any particular direction. IMF staff has a comparative advantage in putting their research-related work into a context that can’t be duplicated elsewhere. They can go to a third world country, for example, and talk to the finance minister. They can actually conduct transactions in the local markets. When they come back, they can describe what they did and then do an empirical or theoretical study. That’s really what I try to do with Staff Papers.

IMF Survey: In 2001, Staff Papers published a collection of papers from the 2000 Annual IMF Research Conference. Are there any plans for other special issues?

Flood: We have a special issue on transition economies coming out in the first half of 2002. Apart from that, we are not planning any other special issues besides the research conference, which will be a special issue every year. What we are doing is setting aside sections of the journal for special issues. In a forthcoming Staff Papers, for example, there will be a three-paper section—two invited papers and one inside paper—on predicting economic variables.

IMF Survey: There have been a number of changes in the look of the journal in recent years. Has the content changed too?

Flood: No, the content is basically the same. When I took over as Editor, the Editorial Committee said, “Why don’t we shake up the journal?” So I went to our graphic artists and they came up with four designs. We eventually decided on the current blue design, which is going to be our look for a while.

There has been one other substantial change. Staff Papers used to be a quarterly journal. It now comes out in three numbered, but not dated, issues. We used to publish about 20 papers a year in four issues. Now we’re doing the same number of papers in three issues, so the journal has gotten a bit thicker. Including the Annual Research Conference issue, we now publish about 30 papers a year.

IMF Staff Papers has published a variety of economics classics—papers that make most graduate reading lists.

–Robert Flood

IMF Survey: What kind of feedback do you receive from your readers?

Flood: Not very much. I’d like to get a lot more. When I came on board, I invited readers to send in comments, but we didn’t get many. We now post every paper and the data used in the paper on the IMF’s website. My understanding is that people like that and download the data on a regular basis.

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