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Working papers and published articles

- December 15, 2008

Larry Bartels “writes in comments”:https://themonkeycage.org/2008/12/wheres_the_american_working_cl.html#comment-35695 to an earlier post of mine which cited to a paper of his:

bq. I just noticed that Henry’s link leads to the original, unpublished version of my paper. The version published in the Quarterly Journal of Political Science (also posted on my Princeton webpage) was extensively revised in response to Frank’s critique. Oddly, that fact seems to have escaped many people (including, most recently, Michael Tomasky in the New York Review of Books).

This was completely my fault – where I am citing to a working paper that seems old, I usually try to email the author to find out whether there is a more recent version available. I didn’t in this case because I was swamped with other stuff (but I should at least have visited his web page). But perhaps this also points to a more general problem in the intersection between academia and public debates. Because of copyright issues, academics often don’t publish the final versions of their papers to the web (indeed the trouble is often getting them to publish _any_ version at all). And even when they do, there usually isn’t any simple or obvious way of finding out which is the most recent non-paywalled version of a piece without emailing the author to ask. Google and similar tools are often unhelpful, in that they will typically guide you to the version of the piece that has been _most discussed_ rather than the version that is _most definitive._ This hampers public debate, and means, as here, that people end up concentrating their time and energy arguing about earlier and inconclusive drafts, rather than the finished product. This also can produce odd kinds of path dependence _within_ the academy (one of my most cited pieces is a co-authored article on blogs with Dan Drezner, but most of the citations are to the early and provisional 2004 conference paper rather than to the various intermediate versions which are available, let alone the finished version which appeared at the beginning of this year).