Categories: Newsletter Issue 2020:1

Press Changes at the American Journal of Health Economics: An Interview with Leslie Ofori and Tony Lo Sasso

By: Sebastian Tello-Trillo

Sebastian Tello-Trillo: Thanks for giving us the opportunity to ask some questions about the future of the journal. To set the context could you share with us some statistics about the current states of the journal (number of papers submitted, rejection/acceptance rates, most common topics, etc.)?

Leslie Ofori [Program and Conference Manager, ASHEcon]: In 2019, there were 212 submissions, 6% of those were accepted, 33% were desk-rejected and about 46% were rejected after referee reviews. The average citation per article is 1.03 and the most common topics that were submitted were Medicare Part D, health behaviors and quality of health-care.

STT: As AJHE enters its 6th volume, can you reflect a little on the decision to start a journal and what went into that process?

Tony Lo Sasso [former Executive Director, ASHEcon]: The main consideration for ASHEcon is always: “what can we invest in to benefit the field of health economics and, by extension, the membership of the organization?” The leadership at ASHEcon felt that there was room in the market for another high-quality economics field-journal focused on health. The nearest analog we felt was when the Society of Labor Economists launched the Journal of Labor Economics (JOLE) in 1983. There was the Journal of Human Resources and the Industrial and Labor Relations Review, but at the time in the fast-growing field of labor economics, there was room for another journal. And now, JOLE is arguably the top labor economics journals. And, perhaps not coincidentally, JOLE is published by the University of Chicago Press. The Association is enormously excited about the future for AJHE.

STT: What are some reasons for the move from MIT to Chicago press? What are the benefits?

TL: MIT Press has been an extraordinary partner to ASHEcon in making the journal possible. We are forever grateful for the hard work and dedication of the staff at MIT Press in giving us the close attention we needed—attention we feel we would never have received from a mammoth publisher. However, as AJHE has grown and established itself in the field, the advantages of a smaller publisher become less salient. A critical component identified by ASHEcon leadership was doing everything possible to ensure the accessibility of the journal to a broad mainstream audience of economists. This is only possible with institutional library subscriptions. With the University of Chicago Press (UCP), AJHE will become part of the Complete Chicago Package, and almost overnight, we will quadruple the number of institutional subscribers to the journal. We are sad to say goodbye to our good friends at MIT Press, but we are excited about the new relationship we have started with UCP.

STT: The broader access seems like a great goal for the upcoming years of the journal, does this also imply higher revenue or it’s embedded in the cost of changing publishers?

TL: In the long run, yes. We think the revenue prospects will be better given the greater number of institutional subscribers, but the model is a bit different when subscribers come as part of a package (like the Complete Chicago Package). For us a big motivator was access: at least in the short run we’re willing to trade revenue for access. But they’re obviously positively correlated in the longer run.

STT: What’s the rough breakdown to revenue and costs for the journal? Does it subsidize ASHEcon or is it subsidized by ASHEcon?

TL: From the start, ASHEcon leadership viewed the journal as an investment. An investment in the future of health economics as a stand-alone mainstream field of economics. With any investment, you pay upfront and hope you achieve sustainable returns. As a not-for-profit professional organization, we measure those returns not only financially but also in terms of the good we are doing for the profession. From a financial standpoint and from the perspective of providing another avenue for the dissemination of high-quality research, we are delighted with our investment.

STT: Do you envision this move as an important shift in some aspects of the journal?

TL: The only thing people will notice is that in short order AJHE will be accessible to non-members in vastly more libraries than previously. We have switched to a more mainstream and robust editorial and submission platform (Editorial Manager). Because of the volume of submissions, we are expanding the page count of each issue, allowing for two additional papers in each issue. Beyond this, contributors and readers will find the same high standards and same attention to and respect for authors and reviewers.

Sebastian Tello-Trillo is an Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the University of Virginia and a Co-editor of the ASHEcon Newsletter.

 Leslie Ofori is the Program and Conference Manager for both the American Society of Health Economists and the Association for Public Policy Analysis & Management.

 Tony Lo Sasso is a Professor of Economics and Driehaus Fellow at DePaul University. He was the Executive Director of the American Society of Health Economists from 2012 to 2019.