In April 2013, a controversy arose when a working paper (Herndon, Ash, and Pollin 2013) claimed to show serious errors in a highly cited and influential economics paper by Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff (2010). The Reinhart and Rogoff paper had come to serve as authoritative evidence in elite conversations (Krugman 2013) that high levels of debt, especially above the “90 percent [debt/GDP] threshold” (Reinhart and Rogoff 2010, 577), posed a risk to economic growth. Much of the coverage of this controversy focused on an error that was a “perfect made-for-TV mistake” (Stevenson and Wolfers 2013) involving a simple error in the formula used in their Excel calculations. The real story here, however, is that it took three years for this error and other issues to be discovered because replication files were not publicly available, nor were they provided to scholars when asked. If professional norms or the American Economic Review had required that authors publish replication files, this debate would be advanced by three years and discussions about austerity policies would have been based on a more clear-sighted appraisal of the evidence.
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