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  • Writer's pictureJareef Martuza

How AE Lan Luo Changed My Mind on Pursuing Causality, Interesting Research, and Editorial Processes

Written by Jareef Martuza, PhD candidate at the Norwegian School of Economics

We don’t usually change our minds about things, and even less so in 30 minutes. A conversation with IJRM’s Area Editor Lan Luo changed my mind about at least two things regarding research and editorial processes. What exactly? Read on to figure it out!

Lan Luo is a Professor of Marketing at the USC Marshall School of Business. She studies applications of artificial intelligence in digital platforms and new product designs. Lan completed her Ph.D. degree in Business (Major: marketing) from the University of Maryland in 2005.

Lan Luo has been an Area Editor (AE) with the IJRM since 2020. It was an absolute pleasure to interview her for the IJRM newsletter. I learned so many new things from her candid and detailed responses. Here are some of the highlights.


What’s one thing you like about being an Area Editor?

Being a gatekeeper for research articles in the field. Over the past few years, I got papers to IJRM that made me go “wow”; papers that creatively assembled data from different sources, and/or deployed new empirical strategies. As an AE, I get to have early exposure to these really creative manuscripts, which I then try to help become the best versions they can be. As many of you know already, by the time the paper gets accepted, it looks very different from the original manuscript, and it is usually for the better. As an AE, I get to be part of this journey and help bring interesting work to light.

What’s a recent trend in submissions that you’ve noticed in the field?

Recently, I noticed a growing number of authors using multiple methods in one paper. The more successful multi-method papers seem to synergize machine learning with econometrics, field experiments with observational data, and/or lab experiments with observational data. But what sets them apart is they show a solid understanding of the problem, and they leverage multiple methods to clearly make their case.

What are the don’ts you’d advise authors submitting manuscripts to avoid?

First, be careful to not make obvious mistakes. I have received submission packages that forgot to submit tables or figures references in the main text. Obvious misses might signal a lack of rigor and cast critical doubts on whether the authors did their analyses with due diligence.

Second, refrain from claiming causality by merely running standard regression models on observational data. Talk to senior colleagues around you about when claims about causality are warranted.

Also, not all research needs to be causal. As a field where we’re so fixated on causality, junior scholars who are not affiliated with top schools may be at a disadvantage in their career advancements. For instance, running field experiments with large corporations can be a hurdle for many junior researchers who don’t have abundant resources and/or connections. As an AE, I’m quite open to observational research that studies interesting and under-researched questions and weaves them into a compelling case!

What’s one wrong perception may researchers have about the editorial process?

Don’t be too discouraged by a Reject and Resubmit. For example, as the AE, I might see potential in a paper, but the reviewers may not see it that way. Then, I may work with the Editor to give a Reject and Resubmit decision and then assign new reviewers upon a resubmission.

It is not unusual to have different or mixed opinions among editors and reviewers about the potential of a paper. Nonetheless, as authors, make sure to read the editor’s and reviewers’ comments carefully before proceeding with the resubmission.

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give to your Ph.D. student self?

Manage time and work with the right people. So many people in our field are very smart and hard-working. However, only some can attain tenure and have successful careers. What sets people’s trajectories apart is not just a function of how hard-working or smart they are - career trajectories are also a function of how the researcher manages her time, shapes the portfolio and pipeline, and chooses co-authors to work with through the years.

It may be a good idea to start thinking about these as early in the Ph.D. program as possible. In our field, if you’re lucky it takes 3-4 years to publish rigorous work. Perhaps two years to write the paper, and maybe another two years in the review process. Think about your portfolio and building a network from the get-go because much of what you start during your Ph.D. may have a fighting chance to make your tenure application stronger.

What drives you to do the work that you do?

Spending time studying things that I am passionate about. Only a small portion of the population gets to have a job they truly enjoy, and I am lucky to be among them. As a professor, I have the luxury to focus on questions I’m the most curious about. Having led the Amazon Studious Science team before and now being an Amazon Scholar has likewise fed my curiosity.


This article was written by

Jareef Bin Martuza

Ph.D. Candidate at the Norwegian School of Economics

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