New linkages with RePEc

October 23, 2014

In my previous post, I have alluded to the fact that the value of RePEc comes from linkages between identified elements. In the next post, I will set out a working example of linkage usage in the CollEc project. In this post, I’m discussing a direction for future work. It’s about creating new linkage type. Much of this is already implemented at SocioNet. SocioNet is a RePEc service that originated in Russia in the 1990s. They hold RePEc data and combine it with local data.

Recently, login data from the RePEc Author Service has become available to other RePEc service via a protocol known as openID. Soon RAS-registered users will be able to login to SocioNet without having to create a SocioNet account, just simply by using their RAS account. SocioNet then knows that you are an identified author. When you are logged into SocioNet in this way, SocioNet knows that you have written a bunch of papers, that I will now call “your papers”. Based on the knowledge of your authorship, it can assume that you know your work and the surrounding literature. It can give you get a personalized web interface based on RAS data. In that interface you will be able to conveniently supply further details about your work.

First, SocioNet can enquire about the role of your collaborators in a given research paper. In conventional abstracting and indexing data, all contributors to a paper are placed into a list of authors. But usually, the co-authors each have different roles in the papers writing process. You can indicate the roles using a simple controlled vocabulary.

Second, using SocioNet you will be able to provide linkages between papers. One of the linked papers has to be yours. The other paper may be yours, but it may not be.

Let’s look at cases where you wrote both papers that you want to link. One thing you may want to tell users is how papers relate to each other. So you can say that one paper is an abridged version of the other, that a third paper is a development of the fourth. Eventually, such relationships could be picked up by RePEc services to create commented links between your papers. This is particularly useful if you have a version of a paper you don’t like any more. You can point users to a better version of the paper.

When you only wrote one of the papers, the other paper has to be on the reference list of one of your papers. In that case you can bring in a vocabulary containing terms like “develops model from”, or “uses software from” or “uses data from”. There are two aspects to these document to document relations.

One is that guessing the context of a citation is really difficult using the automated ways in which the citation is actually being produced. If users can take a small amount of time to classify citations according to a simple menu than we would be able to get more valuable information about the structure of ideas across papers.

The other is that building relationship with sources of data and software would advertise the data and software and promote the sharing of these resources. RePEc already works with software.  It would be great if it could work with datasets, i.e. as and when reusable datasets would be considered as publications in their own right, then users could point to a dataset used in the publication right in the metadata. It could then be possible to create a list of all the publications using a certain dataset. That would be a great way to unify papers on a certain topic and of course, to promote the dataset maintenance as an additional academic endeavour.


RePEc in September 2014

October 3, 2014

Quite a few new developments this month: All RePEc sites hosted at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis are now encrypted (“https”), allowing a more secure user experience. You can now add a picture, social networks and areas of interest to your citation profile at My CitEc. The random paper finder on IDEAS now uses citation weighting. And the dormant NEP-AFR report (New Economics Papers on Africa) has been revived. Not bad for a single month.

We counted 491,312 file downloads and 1,797,609 abstract views in September 2014. NEP got another record traffic month, possibly helped by the fact that NEP reports are now available on Twitter. We have also welcomed the following newly participating RePEc archives: Association of African Young Economists, Universität Duisburg-Essen (III), Université d’Orléans, University of St. Andrews (II), Bank of Japan (II), University of Limerick, Syddansk Universitet, Universität Kiel, IQRA University, Multinational Finance Society. As to the thresholds we passed:

80000000 cumulative downloads from reporting RePEc services
1500000 indexed documents available online
750000 paper announcements through NEP
750 NEP-ALL reports


Why reported traffic is declining

September 28, 2014

Back in May 2012, we were complaining that reported traffic on RePEc sites was declining. This trend has continued and we need to revisit the issue.

Looking at the graphs at LogEc it is quite obvious that traffic is not increasing as you would expect, including accounting for the the fact that there is actually more and more material indexed on RePEc. Before looking for the reasons, we need to explain how these statistics are computed.

Only a limited set of RePEc services reported the detailed traffic statistics needed to compute this: EconPapers, IDEAS, NEP and Socionet. Aggregate numbers are not sufficient for other RePEc services to report their statistics, one needs a lot of details to determine whether traffic is robotic or human, to remove duplicates and to detect fraud attempts. If fact about 90% of total traffic is rejected for statistical purposes on those grounds. This complexity makes that several sites that use RePEc data are not reporting anything about their traffic. This includes: EconLit, EconStor, Google Scholar, Inomics, Microsoft Academic Search, OAISter/WORLDCAT, Scirus, Sciverse and very likely more. The fact that the data collected by RePEc is used in many places is not contrary to our mission. We want to improve the dissemination of research in Economics. But we seem to be able to track only a fraction of its use. As the number of RePEc services reporting statistics has not increased, while the number of sites using RePEc data has, we could explain the decrease in reported traffic as cannibalization. The overall use may have increased, and user satisfaction too, but we cannot demonstrate it.

Of course, given that we are filtering the traffic statistics, we may be filtering too much, and increasingly so. We have indeed tightened some rules over time, mostly to avoid counting new traffic patterns that are visibly not legitimate. For example, IDEAS threw out 3.4 millions abstract views (or two per listed abstracts) in July 2014 thanks to a single pattern rule that was introduced about a year ago. But this pattern was previously not problematic, so it is difficult to conclude that such tightening can explain a reduction in traffic. It remains a fact that the proportions of traffic that is excluded is steadily increasing. In raw numbers, IDEAS keeps breaking records. It filtered numbers, traffic is declining. Is it because there are really more and more robots out there?

The same applies to other potential explanations: Several institutions are caching our websites. several have all their members access the web through a single IP address and are thus undistinguishable to us. In both cases, downloads by different users look to us like they are coming from the same person and are counted only once. Is this more prevalent than before? Yes in both cases, but caching is very minor, and IP bundling pertains mostly to governmental institutions and corporate networks. How much this matters is difficult to evaluate.

The big elephant in the house is traffic coming from search engines, and most importantly Google. Google has changed its ranking criteria over time. Google Scholar has started privileging the original source over aggregators like RePEc several years ago, and the impact has been increasing as more publishers give Google Scholar direct access to their repositories. This pertains also to the general Google search engine. For example, traffic from Google to IDEAS dropped by a third from one day to the next on May 22, 2014, after Google decided to penalize the search ranking of aggregator web pages.

Finally, we cannot exclude that RePEc services are indeed less popular, which is bad. But if this is because people are more easily finding what they are looking for, then this is good, as the core missing of RePEc is to improve the dissemination of research in economics.


The value of RePEc — an introduction

September 13, 2014

I am Thomas Krichel the principal founder of RePEc. This is my second  contribution here. I plan to write more in the com on fundamental aspects of RePEc. And I’ll give some explanation about RePEc history. My particular expertise is how RePEc came about.

Today let me try to say something about the value of RePEc. In some, though not all aspects, RePEc is a digital and open equivalent of what librarians have long been calling abstracting and indexing (A&I) databases. A&I data is must common of academic journal literature. It lists descriptive information about journal articles past and present. These days, such databases appear to be of declining value. Librarians have been canceling with the argument that users want full text, not just an abstract. Here the description of the paper is a poor (wo)man’s version of the document itself, which of course would have that description. For WoPEc‐-the forerunner of RePEc‐-I took the opposite view. The full-text location was simply an attribute of the description of the paper.

In the early 90s, when I started the work on WoPEc, the fact that anything was freely available on the web was seen with some suspicion. I recall a radio comment at that time, about some company, and the comment about them was something like “They are now on the Internet, which is a euphemism for saying that they gone out of business”. Among economists in particular, the notion that free means cheap and cheap means bad, seemed to have a lot of appeal. Therefore I was keen that RePEc should not just be cheaper, but also be better than existing A&I databases. In 1998, I started to work on the key component of that vision, the RePEc Author Service. I designed the service and my student Markus J.R. Klink implemented it. At that point, I was not aware of any A&I product that implemented author identification. And for such there was no way that anybody would have implemented any service that would allow authors to claim papers. Of course the fact that Christian had worked on collection institutional data already was of great help to make this even more attractive.

Well, enough about pioneering works. I did promise to write about the value of RePEc, didn’t I? The key value I see is in identifying documents, authors and institutions and build linkages based on these identifications. Thus even if all papers in economics would be freely available, in open access journals or working papers sites of institutions and they would be staying there, we still would not have implemented the value of RePEc. The value does not come from individuals using a search engine and finding something of interest. Our value comes in the linkages like “this working paper was never published” or “this paper is cited by this other paper”, or “these two authors are co-authors”. If the coverage of economics through RePEc is complete, we can make such assertions with certainty. And we can make the assertions without further human work. For example through the fact that we have two papers that have identified authors, we can say that the two authors are co-authors.  Since the data is freely available that can be used in a co-authorship system. Or if we know that one paper cites another, we can export this into a system that solicits information about why the citation took place.  Linkages and open information go hand in hand in RePEc.


RePEc in August 2014

September 4, 2014

The new feature of the month is that the weekly NEP reports disseminating new economics papers are now available through Twitter. NEP is on a tear, with record downloads from this service despite the usual Summer lull. This cannot be said of other RePEc service, a subject that will be addressed in an upcoming blog post. For August, we counted and certified 415,405 file downloads and 1,495,049 abstract views and we welcomed the followed new participating archives: Higher Education Press, Sobra México, EcoMod, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies (IX), Centro de Estudios Públicos, Beijing Institute of Technology, Instituto de Alto Estudios Nacionales (Ecuador), The Economics and Social Development Organization.


Get your latest economic research through Twitter: NEP now tweets

August 24, 2014

RePEc has been disseminating almost from its start in 1997 new working papers through NEP (New Economics Papers). When RSS feeds became popular, that means of dissemination was added. And now that scholars have adopted Twitter, NEP is there, too.

Each of the about 90 field-specific reports is now tweeting. The papers are hand-picked by academic volunteer editors among all new working papers that are available online. As the email reports may contain several dozen papers in each weekly mailing, the tweets are throttled to no more than one an hour for each report. To subscribe, log into Twitter, go to the NEP home page, click on the report(s) relevant to you, then click on the Twitter link and finally the follow button.

As all RePEc projects, this service is of course free.


RePEc in July 2014

August 5, 2014

While traffic has been in the traditional Summer lull (388,850 file downloads and 1,559,593 abstract views in July 2014), things have been surprisingly active on RePEc. We welcomed 15 new RePEc archives: Ekonomik Yaklasim Dernegi, History of Economic Ideas, Cuadernos de Economía, Architexturez Imprints, Synergiz, University of Pennsylvania (II), INRA (III), Swiss Society for Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, University of Southern California (II), Canadian Centre for Health Economics, Ekonomika Society of Economists Niš, Glasgow Caledonian University, HETFA Research Institute, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica, National University of Political Studies and Public Administration (II).

These, and the existing RePEc archives, have contributed to an unprecedented inflow of newly indexed material: 7,401 papers and 27,768 articles. This allowed the RePEc holdings to surpass 1 million articles and 1.6 million documents. Also, the last 100,000 new documents were indexed in a record time, six months and two days.

Finally IDEAS added a new feature, with backlinks from papers and articles listed on the Economics Replication Wiki. Now on to the thresholds we reached.

3000000 cumulative book abstract views
1600000 indexed documents
1000000 indexed articles
2000 indexed journals
2000 contributors to the RePEc Genealogy


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