AEA sets new guidelines on ethics

Gerald Epstein

Last year Gerald Epstein, UMass Amherst economics professor and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute, and Jessica Carrick-Hagenbarth, UMass Amherst graduate student, sent an open letter to the American Economic Association urging the organization to adopt a code of ethics for the economics profession that would require “disclosure of potential conflicts of interest that can arise between economists’ roles as economic experts and as paid consultants, principals or agents for private firms.” The letter was signed by over 300 economists including Nobel laureate George Akerlof and Christina Romer, a former advisor to US president Barack Obama.

At its annual meeting earlier this month, the Executive Committee of the American Economic Association adopted extensions to its principles for authors’ disclosures of potential conflicts of interest in the AEA’s publications. Epstein said in a recent interview that “the AEA guidelines are a very big step forward. They make very clear the importance of disclosure of potential conflicts of interest by economists and set out in detail the types of conflicts that should be disclosed. In some ways these guidelines are stronger than i had expected… They require disclosure with respect to publication in AEA journals, rather than just recommend it.” (Economics Intelligence, 1/8/2012; Wall Street Journal, 1/9/12)

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