Dean Baker responds to a blogpost by a Princeton economist who argued that criticisms of economic research posted by bloggers is a bad thing. We should leave that job to the academic journals according to the Princeton economist. Baker reminds us that errors in the Rogoff and Reinhardt paper were first exposed in a blogpost. That led other economists to investigate the R&R paper and confirm the errors, and more importantly, question the conclusions of the paper which led policy makers across the globe to make disastrous public policy decisions. In this case the blogpost caused policy makers to question the decisions that were made, and it informed the public about the potential misuse of economic research, particularly when it justifies policies consistent with a particular economic ideology. It is very clear that the data in the R&R paper were manipulated to reach the desired conclusion which was also consistent with their own political affiliations.
The Princeton economist may have chosen the wrong economic paper to defend but I believe that economic blogs serve a purpose that is not served by refereed academic journals. The public does not read those journals, and even if they did read them they would not understand the jargon that academics use to communicate with other academics. In other words, the refereed journals serve a very narrow purpose. They allow academics to further their careers by producing what the referees of those journals tend to publish. Most of the research that is published would not be of interest to the general public and that is unfortunate. The public needs to be better informed about the economic concepts that influence public policy decisions. Furthermore, the referees, if they had done their job properly, would have discovered the errors in the R&R paper before they decided to publish it. We would have never known about those errors if it were not for a blogpost by the graduate student who took the time to examine the data.