Consider the following email:
From: Michael TaylorDate: June 13, 2011 1:29:47 AM EDTTo: undisclosed-recipients:;Subject: reviewing request from the Applied Economics Research BulletinThe Applied Economics Research Bulletin, which is a non-commercial alternative to Economics Letters, has received the two attached manuscripts for possible publication as a Peer-Reviewed Working Paper. Compared to Regular Papers, the working series is only lightly reviewed since the main focus is on quick and wide dissemination. We were wondering if you could give us your thoughts on both manuscripts. If you are very busy and don't have the time to give a detailed assessment, we would appreciate just a thumbs up or thumbs down indication regarding the manuscripts.Thank you and best regards,Mike--Michael TaylorApplied Economics Research Bulletinhttp://berkeleymath.com/BerkeleyJournal.aspxquestions@BerkeleyMath.com
The web page for this new journal appears here and it appears to be a serious enterprise, if I may define serious as "having a bunch of my friends on the editorial board". I also like the idea of a lightly refereed working paper series. This has the potential to fill a real need for graduate students and other scholars who are not members of one of the organizations, such as the IZA or the NBER, with widely-circulated working paper series. At the moment, such scholars have no good way of establishing "property rights" to their work by circulating it with an authenticated date.
My one concern about the new journal is that they seem to be finding their referees by simply sending out papers to graduate students at top departments without checking overmuch to see whether the papers really fit the student's research interests. I say this because (at least) two different Michigan economics graduate students received the above email. One of them is a micro development economist and the other an economist of education. They received the same two papers to review, one on foreign direct investment and one on an applied econometrics topic.
So, not journal spam, but maybe some refinement in the process for selecting referees is in order?
Addendum: I have now confirmed that a third Michigan economics graduate student, this one a macro-economist, also received the same email and the same two papers.
Hat tip: anonymous UM economics grad student