Aggegating discussion of economics research on blogs

April 10, 2012

The discussion of economic issues on the blogosphere is too little based on actual research. To promote blogs that discuss research, the blog aggregator EconAcademics.org was created a few years ago, showing for a select few blogs their last posts. EconAcademics.org has now been completely redone, with a radical change in concept.

The site now monitors a large number of economics blogs and selects the posts that discuss research. These posts are currently identified by a link to material on EconPapers, IDEAS, or NEP. The selected posts are then displayed on the site (main page and respective language) and linked from the relevant IDEAS page. We hope this will further promote the discussion of economic issues based on research and the blogs that do so.

You can find the new blog aggregator at EconAcademics.org.


Who uses RePEc?

December 17, 2011

The goal of RePEc is to enhance the dissemination of research in Economics, and in particular to make it more accessible to those who do not have the resources of large and rich institutions. Here, I analyze traffic on IDEAS, the most popular of the RePEc services, since its move to the Economic Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

IDEAS is in English, but of course a substantial share of the material in RePEc is in other languages. Looking at the browser settings of those visiting IDEAS, 65% of visitors have the language set on English, 6% Spanish, 5% German and Chinese, 4% French. Browser settings can reveal more about the users. Browser chares are 37% for Internet Explorer, 29% for Firefox, 23% for Chrome, 8% Safari and 2% Opera. 85% of visitors use Windows, 10% some Mac OS, 2% some mobile OS and 1.2% Linux.

What is more interesting to us is where IDEAS visitors come from. Despite substantial ISP concentration is some large countries, no single ISP accounts for more than 1.8% of visitors. By country, the visitor ranking is:


  1. 22% United States
  2. 8.2% United Kingdom
  3. 5.3% India
  4. 4.9% Germany
  5. 3.6% China
  6. 3.5% Canada
  7. 3.2% France
  8. 2.8% Italy
  9. 2.7% Australia
  10. 1.9% Philippines
  11. 1.8% Netherlands
  12. 1.8% Spain
  13. 1.5% Japan
  14. 1.5% Malaysia
  15. 1.5% Brazil
  16. 1.3% Colombia
  17. 1.2% Pakistan
  18. 1.2% Switzerland
  19. 1.2% Turkey
  20. 1.2% Mexico
  21. 1.0% Belgium
There have been visitors from 223 countries, including 8 from Saint Helena, and 3 from North Korea. By continent, Europe accounts for 34.8%, the Americas for 32.9%, Asia for 24.1%, Africa for 4.8% and Oceania for 3.2%. And if you are really curious, the top cities are London, New York, Paris, Washington, New Delhi, Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, Manila, Beijing, Bogota, Melbourne, Kuala Lumpur, Mumbai, Rome, Seoul, Toronto, Bangalore and Nairobi. St. Louis, where the server is located, ranks 125th, between Dar-Es-Salaam and Adelaide. Interesting that so many cities in less developed countries are in this list.


EconStor: A RePEc Archive for Research from Germany

September 15, 2011

This guest post was written by Jan Weiland.

EconStor is a subject-based repository for economics and business administration maintained by the German National Library of Economics / Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (ZBW). It provides free access to all kinds of scholarly publications, including working and discussion papers, conference papers, journal articles, research reports, and dissertations. The main content so far comes from German research institutions and university departments. But acting as a disciplinary repository EconStor, of course, welcomes any research institution worldwide seeking for a reliable storage and publishing infrastructure for its research papers in the field of economics and business administration – especially those institutions without access to a local repository infrastructure.

EconStor’s main objectives are


  • to offer scholarly publications without access restrictions (‘Open Access’),
  • to assure free and durable accessibility via fixed and stable links (‘Persistent Identifier’),
  • to provide consistent bibliographic data (‘Metadata’) like author, title, abstract, keywords, and JEL codes, and
    to disseminate the publications via databases, search engines and social media.

In order to achieve these goals we decided to make a “Full-Service Offer” to the editors of publications being considered to be published at EconStor, i.e. the EconStor team organizes the full text upload and metadata recording – free of charge, but based on a publication agreement [pdf] which is required for copyright reasons.

Besides complete working paper series or e-journals, EconStor is also open for single authors wishing to self-archive their own publications like pre- and post-prints, research reports, or theses. For this purpose we have prepared the ‘special community’ EconStor Direct, separated into collections covering common document types.

For the dissemination of scholarly output in economics, RePEc is an ideal service. Therefore we started in 2006 with feeding publications from our repository
into the RePEc database. Further requests followed from other institutions, so by and by the idea was developing to build up a national RePEc input service – similar to DEGREE for the Netherlands or S-WoPEc for Scandinavia. And although some institutions from Germany already were (and still are) providing its research series to RePEc themselves, there was still enough demand for setting up such a national service. But at that time at first a more flexible repository system had to be implemented. ZBW decided for DSpace, still the most widely-used repository software in the world. What were the reasons that led to this decision? First of all DSpace offers an interface for bulk ingest. This is very helpful when some metadata is already available in a structured format, like Excel or CSV files, e.g. from conference management tools. Furthermore it is able to handle Unicode/ UTF-8 encoding (very important for non-Latin characters, e.g. Cyrillic), it uses the Handle System from CNRI as persistent identifier system by default, and its inherent community&collections structure fits best to our needs: covering series, journals, and conference proceedings. So it is no surprise that AgEcon Search, a very similar approach in agricultural economics, uses the same software!

The idea of building up a ‘national RePEc input service’ was convincing for the German Research Foundation (DFG), that decided to supply some extra funding for the implementation in 2009. The funding enabled us to transfer the RePEc export interface to DSpace and to prepare additional publications for the integration into EconStor. This includes several ‘back files’ from the early 1990s, which in some cases had been originally published in formats like Postscript, DVI/TeX, or pure HTML – and are now available in PDF on EconStor and in RePEc.

In the meantime EconStor is hosting the full texts of more than 100 ‘series’ (including conferences and journals) from 75 German research institutions and university departments in RePEc. And with more than 7,500 downloadable items EconStor is now a major contributor to RePEc. The demand shows, that the ‘RePEc input service’ constitutes an important incentive for an institution to participate in EconStor.

But also publications from single authors are provided to RePEc, e.g. doctoral theses are listed within ZBW’s series ‘EconStor Theses‘. And as ‘theses’ are tagged as ‘books’ within this series, those documents will be displayed correspondingly within a personal RePEc author profile. So if you wish to add your PhD thesis to your RePEc profile, listed separately from your papers and articles (see example), you are very welcome to submit your work to EconStor!

Although RePEc is a very important dissemination point for EconStor content, there are some more distribution channels making it potentially interesting to participate in EconStor: All records are fed into EconBiz (ZBW’s search engine for economics and business studies), Google Scholar, BASE (Bielefeld Academic Search Engine) and OAIster. A certain portion of content from EconStor is provided to Economists Online and the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).


Why discussion paper archives should not allow the removal of items

August 20, 2011

The archives listed in RePEc differ in their policies regarding withdrawal of items, or replacement of an old item by a newer one. Some archives, like NBER, permit withdrawals and replacements, while others, like  IZA  or MPRA do permit neither withdrawals nor replacements. (ArXiv, the leading archive for physics, has adopted a no withdrawal policy as well.)

I am managing MPRA, which publishes unrefereed discussion papers in economics. In the following, I detail the reasoning underlying MPRA’s policy choice.  As the case for prohibiting withdrawals seems to be strong, it is hoped that other RePEc archives adopt a similar policy if they have not done so already.

Discussion papers are preliminary versions of articles that may appear in their final form in the future. Discussion of these preliminary versions serves to improve them.

Discussion of a discussion paper requires that it can be cited. Citation requires that you can find the cited item, and even the cited phrase at the page given in the citation. In short: The cited item must remain reliably unchanged and retrievable.

In the old days, you mailed typed manuscripts to colleagues, and successively revised your papers in response to their suggestions and criticism. This entailed the problem that your colleagues would refer to different versions. In order to correctly grasp their points, you had to keep track of the different versions you had mailed around. (I never managed.) With a stable Internet address for each version, this tracking can be done over the Internet with ease. Permitting substitution of old versions by new version under the same Internet address would invide confusion and would make citations unreliable.

So the alternative seems to be: Either you keep your papers private and have your discussion in form of private correspondence, or you put them on the Net for public discussion. The second alternative is implied by placing the paper in a discussion paper archive, and this seems to require that identifiable versions remain accessible concurrently.

In addition, there are further reasons for favoring a “no withdrawal” policy by archive maintainers.

– If the final version of a paper ends up in a toll-gated journal, this excludes the majority of economists from reading the final version. The presence of a preliminary version mitigates the problem.

– If the preliminary version is referred to by a hyperlink, the reference becomes largely useless. NEP reports will, for instance, show dead links in such cases. This is a nuisance.

– If problems about priority of findings arise, these may be settled more easily if all versions are available on the Net.

– For archive maintainers, the manual handling of withdrawals requires considerable work. This speaks against the possibility of withdrawals as well. (For large archives, this reason is overwhelming. At MPRA we initially permitted withdrawals, but this proved impracticable and provided the proximate cause for adopting the no-withdrawal policy.)

– Further, the fight against plagiarism is eased by adopting a non-withdrawal policy. Typically, plagiarizers ask for removal of their contribution if detection is imminent. This tends to shade the case. If a plagiary remains in the archive, the case remains transparent. If an item is identified as a plagiary, it is to be marked as such, and the original source indicated. This has additional advantages:

– the interested reader is referred to the original source

– the plagiarizer cannot make his plagiary undone, thereby hiding the offense from scrutiny by potential future employers

– because of that threat, plagiarism becomes more risky and is discouraged.

– problems with plagiarism may be settled more easily and be handled more transparently if all versions are available on the Net. Otherwise, a paper may be plagiarized, the original paper substituted by a revised  version, and priority will go to the plagiary, while the revised version will be counted as a result of plagiarism! This ought to be avoided.

The common objection against a no withdrawal policy is that authors would prefer readers to read the newest version. Yet RePEc provides information about all versions, and the metadata at IDEAS or EconPapers provide alerts about other existing versions. So the readers may choose the most recent one. (Such problems occur all the time, but it would be impractical to introduce the possibility of withdrawing everything, including published papers. For example, I have recently updated a paper published in a journal in 2008 and would like to refer the reader to the new version in the format of a discussion paper which contains important improvements and new material, but there is no way to do that, other than hoping that the reader searches through RePEc or sees the different versions in Google.)

There is, thus, a conflict between the interest of the author to have only his or her favorite version on the Net, and the public that is interested in transparency and unmanipulated documentation. At MPRA, we try to take account for that by indicating if a paper is superseded by a newer version. Further, we offer the possibility to watermark papers as withdrawn by the author, but leave them in the archive.


Three new fields covered by NEP

July 25, 2011

NEP (New Economics Papers) is the RePEc service in charge of disseminating recent working papers that are available online. This dissemination occurs through email lists and RSS feeds. Given the large number of them, about 400-500 a week, they are split into field specific reports, each headed by an editor who chooses what is relevant to the field of interest, aided by an expert system. About 90 fields are currently covered, and volunteers are welcome to edit any area that is currently not represented.

We take this opportunity to highlight three new reports of SEO services that have recently been opened:

  • NEP-DEM (Demographic Economics), edited by Clarence Nkengne Tsimpo (Université de Montréal and World Bank). Note that there are also a report for migration (NEP-MIG).
  • NEP-IUE (Informal and Underground Economics), edited by Catalina Granda Carvajal (Universidad de Antioquia).
  • NEP-LMA (Labor Markets: Supply, Demand, and Wages), edited by Erik Jonasson (Lunds University). There is also a general labor economics report (NEP-LAB) and one dedicated to unemployment, inequality and poverty (NEP-LTV).

Subscriptions are of course free, as everything in RePEc. Details are available at NEP, including for the many other reports.


RePEc now indexes over one million works

January 25, 2011

RePEc has reached over the last week-end a historic mark: one million works in Economics and neighboring sciences are now indexed, of which 87.5% are available for download. The bibliographic database is comprised by 59.2% of journal articles, 38.5% of working papers, 1.3% of book chapters, 0.8% of books, and 0.2% of software components. All this material has been indexed by volunteers maintaining close to 1300 archives. As RePEc bears no costs, all the data is made available for free.

When RePEc started in June 1997, it built on a stock of metadata with 40,000 entries from its precursor NetEc, which started in 1992. Since then, data holdings have increased in an ever increasing fashion:

ItemsDate
100,000August 2000
200,000July 2003
300,000January 2005
400,000July 2006
500,000September 2007
600,000June 2008
700,000January 2009
800,000September 2009
900,000April 2010
1,000,000January 2011

The data collected by RePEc is used by a large number of free core services, including EconPapers, EconomistsOnline, IDEAS, NEP and Socionet. Other services that use RePEc data, however without reporting back usage statistics include, among others, Econlit, Google Scholar, Inomics, Microsoft Academic Search, and Worldcat.


NEP: 30000 reports and going

November 24, 2010

NEP (New Economics Papers) is an important element in the collection of services that use RePEc data. It disseminates through email and RSS weekly reports about new working papers in 85 different fields, each compiled by volunteer editors. This project has recently surpassed 30000 reports sent since 1998 to currently over email 60000 subscriptions from close to 30000 unique email addresses, announcing over 150000 papers on average to two field reports.

The quantity of information digested by this project has grown considerably over the years. Currently about 500 new papers a week are analyzed, a number too large for editors to manage. Thus several years ago an expert system has been put in place that learns on the choices of the editors and offers them every week the complete list of papers for selection, but placing the most likely choices first. It is remarkable how well this works, thereby saving our volunteers considerable time.

Volunteers are still welcome, for example to help with the general management of the project, help with existing reports or open new reports in fields not yet covered. Interested people should contact Marco Novarese.


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