Ellison has painstakingly documented the decline of articles published in top economics journals by authors working in the highest-ranked schools. These authors are continuing to publish, but are seeking other outlets, including unrefereed preprint and working paper servers.
The analysis is simple:
- If you are good and well known, people will read you even if you publish on toilet paper.
- Peer review is becoming less and less fun. Myself, I have had numerous problems with papers stuck in a journal peer review for several years. Conference peer review is often crude.
- Hence, if you are well known, peer review might not be beneficial to you. As you stop publishing in the top venues, the prestige of these venues diminish which leads more people to drop them, and so on. Until one day, nobody thinks that peer review is prestigious
Of course, peer review is not really declining, but rather slowly evolving. It has become far more acceptable to take some of your work and simply post it online. If it is good and useful, people will make use of it, with or without formal peer review. Not unlike open source software.
Source: Michael Nielsen.