Over at The Monkey Cage, Erik Voeten writes:
the American Economic Association (AEA) has started an experiment in which authors of rejected papers can voluntarily ask the editor of its flagship journal (the American Economic Review) to forward referee reports to one of the four field journals that the AEA publishes. The basic idea is that many submissions are good but don’t quite make the cut for the flagship journal. Allowing the field journals to piggyback on referee reports that were already written has major efficiency advantages for authors, journal editors and referees.
It seems to me that this amounts to a centralized peer-review system. There are strong incentives for all to submit everything to the AER: best case scenario the paper is accepted, worst case scenario another good journal can quickly decide whether to accept it or not. If there were additional steps “down the food chain of journals” (as Erik Voeten puts it), the paper would eventually find its place at the appropriate level and the incentives to send it at the top would be even stronger.
Of course, if there is one thing economists like to do, that’s think about incentives, so I wonder whether they’ve figured this out?