UCLA finance professor Bhagwan Chowdhry is making the latest studies in the fields of finance and accounting more accessible and easier for the general public to understand, and he hopes that may be the beginning of a trend.
Seeing an idea he first hatched as a University of Chicago business student to fruition, Chowdhry is now the creator and executive editor of FAMe jagazine (Finance and Accounting Memos journal-magazine), a quarterly publication that compiles the most exciting studies in accounting and finance and presents them to the public with an easy-to-understand lexicon.
“When you’re writing a paper in your field, you think everything is crystal-clear because you’ve been working on that paper for five-to-10 years,” Chowdhry said. “But it’s not crystal-clear to your readers. So in this magazine, if we can use a simpler word, we use a simpler word.”
FAMe launched its first issue in print last June at a conference and mailed out 10,000 copies to business schools, academics, students and business journalists at the end of July. The first and second issues are now available online.
Chowdhry and the FAMe editorial board are currently looking for a sponsor so they can print the second issue. They are also in the process of compiling the third and fourth issues.
The response to the first issue has been overwhelmingly positive, the professor said, and he and the editorial board are still trying to figure out how they’ll handle subscriptions in the future.
“[People] like this idea and the way we produce it,” Chowdhry said. “We have a hard-copy version, we have an online version. People can read it on their tablets, on their iPads and on the web. So we’re making it easy.”
Chowdhry decided to make scholarly findings in finance and accounting more accessible to a wider audience because, with scholarly papers, the author’s original intent and excitement of purpose can sometimes get lost in the “rigor” of the peer review process, he said.
“By the time the paper is done, it’s right, it’s rigorous, and the editors have checked off everything, but it’s kind of lost its original appeal, what motivated you to write it in the first place,” Chowdhry said. “So what we do is go back to the authors and say, ‘Okay, now that the paper has been reviewed, published and accepted, why don’t we write a four- or five-page version of that same idea that would be accessible to a wider audience so people get to know what we’re doing rather than having the paper lose its impact.’”
Chowdhry praises the peer review process as a necessary step toward ensuring the efficacy of an idea and the originality of a concept, but the result is often a “50-page paper no layman is going to read.” FAMe Jagazine simply gets to the meat of a study, allowing readers to access the center of an idea immediately, without having to read around all of the “robustness checks” that can try people's interest, he said.
The FAMe editorial board is not using this publication as a means to bypass scholarly journals. In fact, they’re trying to do the opposite, the professor explained.
“We hope this magazine will increase the viewership of scholarly journals,” Chowdhry said. “Think of it: Who’s going to read the original journal article? Only the experts. [FAMe] is making rigorous research more accessible to a wider audience.”
FAMe asks its readers not to quote directly from its pages, but rather to cite the original article from the original publication. Furthermore, FAMe only publishes articles that have already been published in peer-reviewed journals.
“We are not trying to supersede the review process,” Chowdhry said. “We are saying the review process is important; it has a role. But once it’s done, rather than letting the paper languish and disappear, we want to make it more visible.”
Chowdhry said he hopes the publication will motivate more academics to read the work of their peers and provide easier access to material for graduate and Ph.D. students as they pursue their own research. He also hopes the news media will be more likely to cite these studies because of the reader-friendly format.
“I’m actually hoping — and this is just a hope — that people in other fields will pick this [magazine] up,” Chowdhry said. “[Density of material] is something that plagues other fields as well, so we are hoping that if this is a successful experiment, other fields will actually emulate it.”