Frequently Asked Questions about the Transfer Option from AER or AER: Insights to an AEJ

In what follows, AER is short for both the AER and  AER: Insights.

How does the transfer option work?

The editorial office contacts each of the AER referees to ask them for permission to share their identity and cover letter with the relevant AEJ. If a referee does not respond within 7 days, this is taken as no permission. The editorial office then forwards the AER decision letter, the reports, and, with permission, the cover letter and identity of each referee to the editor of the relevant AEJ.

The AEJ editor assigns the paper either to themselves or to a co-editor. The assigned editor then evaluates the paper, decision letter, the reports, and cover letters, and decides how to proceed. The assigned editor has the following options:

Summarily reject 

This may occur if the available correspondence, or the assigned editor’s own reading, makes clear that the paper is not a good fit for this AEJ or has a shortcoming that a revision would be unlikely to address. In this case, 50% of the submission fee is refunded, following AEA policy.

Request a revision without soliciting additional reports

This option is more likely if the AER referees expressed support for an R&R at the AEJ level in their cover letters to the AER or in response to an inquiry from the assigned editor to them.

Request additional referee reports

This option is more likely if the AER reports were focused on explaining why the paper was not a good fit for the AER but did not provide much guidance on how the paper would need to be revised to become publishable in a very good alternative journal, or if the paper has been revised since the AER submission. The additional referee input could come from new referees or from the existing AER referees.


When should I use the transfer option?

You should use the transfer option if you consider the AER reports generally informative, thoughtful, and reasonable. Even in the case where one of the AER referees misunderstood the paper or was unreasonable, you might still consider using the transfer option. The assigned AEJ editor will discount a report that looks unreasonable or misinformed, and they could proceed based on the other, high-quality reports or solicit a report from a new referee. The AEJ editors make their own decisions on all manuscripts.


Should I revise my paper and include referee responses before submitting to AEJ?

Generally, it is neither necessary nor recommended that you revise the paper. It is generally best to send exactly the same paper you sent to the AER to the AEJ and include a brief cover letter (typically no more than 5 pages of text, plus no more than 5 tables or figures) that explains how you think you could deal with the main comments of the referees if you were invited to revise the paper. Doing this has three advantages:

  1. It gets to the AEJ faster, and is likely to ultimately get published (at the AEJ or elsewhere) faster.
  2. It saves you work in case the assigned editor was going to reject the paper due to issues of fit or to shortcomings that a revision cannot address.
  3. It allows you to get editorial guidance on how to revise the paper. The assigned editor may want to see additional changes, a different emphasis, or may tell you not to implement some of the referees’ requests.

In some cases, however, it might make sense to send a revised paper to the AEJ. For example, you may have AER reports that are detailed and all point in the same direction, and you feel confident there would not be much of a role for editorial guidance in this case. If you revise the paper, then you should describe the changes to the paper since the AER version in the letter to the editor (including changes you made beyond those requested by AER referees, if any) and also include detailed response letters to the referees.


What should I do if I have a partially revised paper?

You may have a partially revised paper because you revised the paper in response to other feedback after it was rejected at the AER. Because the paper is revised, but not only or completely in response to the AER reports, the original AER reports may be of limited relevance to the revised paper. You can still use the transfer option so that the assigned editor knows who the AER referees were, and how they evaluated the original version of the paper. Please submit a response letter to the editor describing the changes you have made since the AER version. The assigned editor can use this information to solicit new reports from the original AER referees if they think it makes sense to ask (some of) these referees again. In this case, the transfer option is not really much different than submitting the paper as a regular submission. It is still useful to include a response letter to referees explaining that the paper has also been revised to comments received elsewhere and explaining which of the referees’ comments you have addressed, and which ones not (yet) and why.

If you have a partially revised paper and you want a new draw of referees, then you should submit the paper as a regular submission.


Does the AEJ follow the advice of the AER editor?

The assigned AEJ editor makes their own decisions. They are not bound by the advice of the AER editors in any way.


What are the expectations in terms of decision times and outcomes?

At AEJ: Applied, approximately 85 percent of submissions that use the transfer option are either rejected or summarily rejected. The corresponding figure is 80 percent at AEJ: Micro and AEJ: Policy, and 75 percent at AEJ: Macro. Typical decision times range from 1-3 months.