AGNOSTIC Papers: Introduction

Introduction: April 25, 2022

This is the introduction of a series I call AGNOSTIC Papers. What is the idea? As you may have read in the post on my investment philosophy, my approach is located somewhere between academia and practice. I enjoy reading papers and approaching markets with scientific rigor. However, my main goal is to create real-world investment strategies and (hopefully) make real-world money with them. That’s quite different to many academics who focus more on publishing their findings in peer-reviewed articles. There is nothing wrong with that and the world definitely needs those people. It just doesn’t fit for me. Therefore, when people ask me about it, I usually reply: “I like to work scientifically, but I am not a scientist.”

The idea of AGNOSTIC Papers is to combine the two worlds by presenting one research paper per week.1Note after week 15: this turned out to be more ambitious than I thought at the time of writing this introduction… These papers should provide scientifically robust insights that are relevant and applicable to real-world investing. At the same time, they must meet certain standards of quality. Ideally, the papers are published in peer-reviewed journals, are currently in the process of doing so, or come from trustworthy authors and institutions. Ultimately, my goal is to create a library that helps to improve real-world investing with academic insights.

Of course, this idea is not new and I am not the only person who is doing this. Many blogs and websites publish comparable formats, so you are absolutely right to ask how mine will be different? The first part of the answer is somewhat unsatisfying, because I don’t really care. I enjoy reading these papers and I want to create summaries for myself. If this is also useful for other people I am of course more than happy about it. But first and foremost, this is a personal project I just want to do. Please don’t get me wrong. I truly appreciate the interest of every single reader and I am happy to discuss any feedback or suggestions!

The second part of the answer is more promising. Apart from just summarizing the papers, I also want to relate their insights and use them to generate ideas. Many of the blogs I follow just present individual papers and stop there. There is nothing wrong with that, but in my opinion, the real value comes from relating ideas to each other and putting them into an actionable framework. Since the papers will cover various different topics, this is probably not always possible. But I will do my best wherever I can.

The theme of AGNOSTIC INVESTING, as I put it on the landing page, is quality over quantity. Therefore, I don’t want AGNOSTIC Papers to be just an easy way to increase the number of posts on this website. Its a project I am personally motivated for and I think it fits well with the other content.

You are more than welcome to follow the series and use the posts for your own investment strategies! Of course, you are also invited to share your comments, questions, and critique! Below you find some of the latest posts!

Update: April 23, 2024

When I realized that the last AGNOSTIC Papers post (URL) is slightly more than 3,000 words long, it made me think about the last two years and the work I have done here. I still have a long and probably never-ending list of interesting papers, so I will definitely continue. I also feel a certain satisfaction when I look at the body of knowledge that is now available on this page. Overall, I am therefore quite happy. But there is always room for improvement and the following two points are especially important to me.

Post Frequency

My (in hindsight very ambitious) goal with AGNOSTIC Papers was to establish a weekly series. How did this work out? AgPa #1 was published on April 25, 2022. Almost exactly two years ago. Two years are 104 weeks, so you should find 104 AGNOSTIC Papers on the page if I achieved my goal. I did not. There are only 75. That is a new post every 1.39 weeks on average. I am of course not happy that I missed this goal, but I think a new post every 9.7 days is also not too bad.

I still run as a fun project aside my full-time job. So there are times when I have to prioritize other things. One such period was the first quarter of 2024. There are no posts from January 1, 2024 to April 1, 2024 because I did several interviews for a new position and prepared for Level III of the CFA. If you want to maintain some social life and a minimum of exercise during such periods, there simply isn’t much time to read papers and write posts. If we take those 13 weeks out, we have 74 posts for 91 weeks or a new post every 8.6 days on average.

No matter the reasons, neither 9.7 nor 8.6 is equal to 7. Averages also hide a lot of the underlying information. Most of the time I either kept the 7-day schedule or published nothing for a few weeks in a row. Again, this is not what I was aiming for. I do believe that the overall consistency is still quite okay, but there is definitely room for improvement!

Post Length

One of the non-negotiable principles of is Quality over Quantity. I hate self-praise and don’t want to drift into it, but I do believe the website has a quite decent standard of quality. I always try to put the papers into context, challenge the methodology, and have no trouble to question previous results when I find new evidence. This is how I like it and it results in pretty long posts.

The average AGNOSTIC Papers post is 2,012 words long. The shortest 475 (AgPa #55), the longest 3,594 (AgPa #40). The 25%-quantile stands at 1,613, the median at 2,038, and the 75%-quantile at 2,436 words. What do those nerdy statistics mean? Well, most of my posts are quite long and I tend to write more very long ones than very short ones. According to the first results on Google, 2,000 words are about 4 pages. That may not sound too much. After two years of doing this, however, I can tell you that 4 pages per week besides a full-time job is quite ambitious.2Remember that you have to also read and understand the paper…

I shouldn’t complain because it is exactly how I set out to do it. I don’t want to do just half-page summaries of papers without understanding and challenging the methodology or context. That adds no value for me as I easily get this information from the abstract, tables, and charts. My goal is to create a review with enough information and details so that I don’t have to look at the original paper unless I need a really special detail.


Continuing AGNOSTIC Papers in its current form means that I can realistically not do much else. The only thing I did aside the (almost) weekly papers were the Standard Stupidities (URL) and a few articles on SeekingAlpha (URL). That is generally not a problem, but it is not what I originally planned to do. I have a lot of unfinished (or even un-started) projects that I would like to pursue but don’t find the time or energy to do so.

As long as I run as the fun-project it currently is, I therefore need to make a decision. Either I fully focus on weekly long format paper reviews or I adjust the format of AGNOSTIC Papers to free up capacity for other projects.

After thinking about it for quite some time, I decided for the second option and a compromise. From my restart on April 1, 2024, I shifted AGNOSTIC Papers to a bi-weekly rhythm. Since I managed to do a new post every 9.7 days in the past, I am confident that I can keep this schedule even in more stressful times. Most importantly, however, it gives me time for other projects. Still, it was no easy decision. Switching from weekly to bi-weekly naturally reduces the amount of content by 50%. This means that the library will build up much slower, but I am aiming to overcompensate for this with other projects.

Given that my audience is still very small, it seems somewhat weird to write such an Update for just a handful of people. As you know, however, I regard primarily as kind of an infinite notebook for myself. So it seems natural to occasionally take the time to reflect on what I am actually doing here. At the same time, I am of course very happy about every single person who reads my material and thank you for spending your time here. It is important to me that you know what you can expect here and hope this post was somewhat useful.

I think most lives work best when you simply react intelligently to the opportunities and difficulties you encounter, and just take the results as they fall.

Some people think that by master planning, you will solve everything, but what I find is that the master plan gets a life of its own, and people believe it because they previously decided on that then, and they make all kinds of mistakes.

Charlie Munger (2013), Daily Journal Annual Meeting, URL

Finally, everything I mentioned in this update is a snapshot of the current moment. I am of course aiming to deliver on what I promise, but I will adjust the plan if necessary. I sometimes tend to over-plan whatever I am doing, so this final paragraph acts as a reminder to follow Charlie Munger’s advice and practice “The Fine Art of Correction”.3This is one chapter in Rolf Dobelli’s great book “The Art of the Good Life”. You can read the chapter in the sample from Amazon (URL).

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1 Note after week 15: this turned out to be more ambitious than I thought at the time of writing this introduction…
2 Remember that you have to also read and understand the paper…
3 This is one chapter in Rolf Dobelli’s great book “The Art of the Good Life”. You can read the chapter in the sample from Amazon (URL).