The RePEc Biblio

February 25, 2013

We are proud to announce the launch of the latest RePEc initiative, the RePEc Biblio. This is a hand-selected collection of the most relevant articles and papers on a wide variety of economics topics. RePEc Biblio is organized as a tree, narrowing the topics as you follow its branches.

The RePEc Biblio lives from the contributions of volunteer editors. Consider helping out if you have taught a class on a topic and have already put together a literature list. Feel also free to contribute your vision of the best papers from your area of research. Volunteer editors are welcome to sign up to populate the tree, either by contacting the manager or the relevant topic editor who can open a sub-topic or sub-sub-topic. We are looking for editors in both the broadest and narrowest fields. And to encourage good editing, readers can rate the topic entries.

Note that IDEAS links from papers, articles, editor profiles, and JEL codes to the relevant RePEc Biblio topics. Authors also find mention of their papers in RePEc Biblio on their IDEAS citation pages.

The Purpose of Journals

February 14, 2013

The editor of the Economics Bulletin, John Conley, has noted that many things go wrong with economic journals. Here is the abstract of his letter:

This letter calls attention a recent trend in economics publishing that seems to have slipped under the radar: large increases in submissions rates across a wide range of economics journals and steeply declining acceptance rates as a consequence. It is argued that this is bad for scholarly communication, bad for economics as a science, and imposes significant and wasteful costs on editors, referees. authors. and especially young people trying to establish themselves in the profession. It is further argued that the new “Big Deal” business model used by commercial publishers is primarily responsible for this situation. Finally it is argued that this presents a compelling reason to take advantage of new technologies to take control of certifying and distributing research away from commercial publishers and return it to scholarly community.

According to Conley,

The purpose of academic journals is to facilitate scholarly communication, filter for errors, and maintain the record of scientific advance.

This is, in my opinion, an idealized conception that does not reflect  the purpose of economic journals anymore. For economic research, the current economic journals are largely redundant. Conley himself notes this:

I seldom actually read journals  any more. I research topics using Google Scholar, RePEc, SSRN, and so on. It is inconvenient to sign up  with publishers to get tables of contents emailed to me or to login to my university’s library web portal to  search a journal issue by issue. I find it adds very little value over a more general search in any event. In  short, certification remains important to help people gain tenure and promotion and to get a sense of the  quality and centrality of individual scholars. However, neither certification by a journal, nor the collection  of similar papers within the bound or even electronic pages of a specific journal has very much meaning to  me when I am trying to understand where the debate in a subfield is at any given moment. As a result, I  was beginning to come to the conclusion that while they are irritating, commercial publishers are “mostly  harmless” to the research enterprise itself as publishing itself is becoming mostly irrelevant.

This coincides with my own observation: researchers don’t need journals. The main purpose of the journals is currently to ease the work of hiring committees. People publish in order to get a job. The wish to communicate new findings appears secondary in most cases.

Journals could serve worthier aims, however: they are needed by students, college teachers, and others who would like to obtain reliable information but can not as easily  separate the wheat from the chaff as active researchers can.

The important point Conley is making is, however, that the current journal system, although largely irrelevant for research, is nevertheless

bad for scholarly communication, bad for economics as a science, and imposes significant and wasteful costs on editors, referees. authors. and especially young people trying to establish themselves in the profession.

I fear, however, that John Conley’s suggestion to increase the number of journals would not improve the situation very much. As long as hiring committees use the reputation of journals, rather than the reputation of individuals,  a useful system of  “communication, filter for errors, and maintain the record of scientific advance” is practically blocked.

What can be done besides increasing the number of journals? Here some further suggestions.

1. Hiring committees can restrict the number of papers to be considered for judging an applicant to, say, three and disregard all other writings. This may help to reduce the number of publications and thereby reduce the need for further journals; it would also tilt the quality-quantity trade-off in favor of quality. (I think this has been a practice in Berkeley.)

2. Hiring committees that feel incompetent to judge the substantive quality of a contribution and have to resort to statistics of some sort may turn to citation counts of individual authors, as obtainable through  Google Scholar, Web of Science, or RePEc). This is a better solution than the the current practice of relying on the prestige of journals and would take account of the fact that  many papers in top journals are not so good, and medium-quality journals publish excellent articles.

RePEc in January 2013

February 4, 2013

We have inaugurated this month MyIDEAS, the personal space on IDEAS that allows a user to follow other authors, series, journals and JEL codes. One can as well build a bibliography and organize it in folders. Find the login at the top of most IDEAS pages or directly here.

We have also welcomed the following institutions with new RePEc archives: Otaru University of Commerce, Romanian Distribution Committee, City University (II), UNDP (II), University of Cambridge (III), Universidad de Oviedo (II), University of Cambridge (II), Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Ukrainian Journal Ekonomist. Also with the over 1500 participating archives, this pushed us to over 1.2 million research items available on-line. Also, a record 610 people signed up on the RePEc Author Service. We counted 2,235,346 abstract views and 554,912 downloads from the reporting RePEc services over last month.

In terms of thresholds we surpassed, we can report the following:

1200000 items available on-line
800000 listed journal articles
750000 listed on-line journal articles


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