RePEc is highlighted in the Boston College Libraries’ newsletter, special issue for OA Week:
RePEc is highlighted in the Boston College Libraries’ newsletter, special issue for OA Week:
We have discussed on various occasions new means of research dissemination and peer review on this blog. One way that could show promise is blogs that discuss research. There are still only few of them, and their readership is still rather small compared to the big current events blogs (and it may be better so). We want to explore whether blog can become a sustainable and useful way of dissemination, discussing and even advancing research in Economics.
To this end, a blog aggregator specialized on research blogs in Economics was created last year: EconAcademics. Some NEP editors are now starting an experiment whereby they highlight and open for discussion one working paper a week. This paper is taking from their weekly list of new working papers, specific to their field. For now, two such NEP blogs are in place: NEP-DGE (Dynamic General Equilibrium) and NEP-OPM (Open Macroeconomics). Others may follow soon and will be listed both in the side bar of this blog and on EconAcademics.
We hope that the selected papers will generate some interesting discussion. We will see whether the profession is ready for this type of discussion. Earlier attempts with the defunct WoPEc and with the Society of Labor Economists failed. A current initiative at the Economics E-Journal seems to work somewhat. Watch and participate in the NEP blogs!
The Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA) has been started three years ago. It has developed into one of the largest archives within the RePEc network, comprising roughly 9000 items at the time of writing. Christian Zimmermann has suggested that I share some toughs about its history and functioning.
The initial idea occurred to me when I heard that the Economics Working Paper Archive (EconWPA), run by Bob Parks, was discontinued in 2005. EconWPA offered the possibility for individual authors to make their contributions accessible to the community through the RePEc network, given that only institutions can set up RePEc archives. Although we have in Munich our discussion paper series integrated into RePEc, not all economists are so fortunate, and the need for a personal archive (as distinct from an institutional archive) was apparent.
Given that we had successfully established our department’s discussion paper series with the EPrints software, it appeared technically feasible to clone the software and use it for a personal RePEc archive. Discussion on the internal RePEc list led to the name “Munich Personal RePEc Archive,” the main concern being to clarify that the archive was intended as a RePEc service, rather something original, and that the name would not exclude other personal RePEc archives in other locations. (If one of the other Munich universities wants to start another personal archive, we may get into a problem…)
I asked Volker Schallehn from the University Library, who has implemented the EPrints software for our university archives, about the possibility to help with such a project. He agreed to help. The next step was to convince the president of the university as well as the director of the library to agree dedicating some resources to the endeavor that would not serve people from Munich at all. They were in favor, and so we got started on September 19, 2006.
From a technical point of view the main problem was to automatize as much as possible, as we could not supply manpower: The generation of title pages, the creation of metadate in the ReDif format required by the RePEc harvester, and the linking to the RePEc author service. With the help of Thomas Krichel, Christian Zimmermann, Kit Baum, Sune Karlsson, Ivan Kurmarov, and others we manged to solve these problems and set up the website. We found editors. They do the main job now. The English editors handle often more than 50 submissions per day.
As the Eprints software permits to establish series in different languages, we decided to use these feature and to offer the service in all languages for authors who deal with country-specific issues and want to make their research available in their local language. However we require for all submissions English abstracts such that all users can obtain an impression what economists writing in other languages do and, if necessary, contact them. This feature has lead to quite a number of submissions in languages like Spanish or French, and to some smaller sets in Turkish, Arabic, and others. (Some of them look extremely pretty.) Maybe this feature creates a sense that all economists world-wide see themselves as members of a community with the common purpose of helping to improve living conditions around the globe.
A central motivation for establishing a pre-print archive like MPRA was to enable authors to secure the copyrights for their pre-print versions in case the copyright for the final article goes to the publisher. This permits open access to their work, even if publishers try to make the final work inaccessible for the non-paying public. This is a great convenience for academics and, I hope, generates a countervailing power that keeps a check on journal prices. Further, this arrangement provides a means for the authors to make their work accessible to others through the RePEc services.
As an unintended by-product some authors have obtained requests from publishers to publish their contribution in a volume or journal. This may indicate a trend for the future: While authors submitted their works to publishers (and paid for it), in the future simply put your stuff on the net, and publishers approach you in order to create collections that generate value added beyond mere publication, such that people and libraries a willing to pay for it. If MPRA could contribute to such a development, this would be nice.
It is quite astonishing to me how many good papers we obtain, in spite of the fact that we do no refereeing at all. (The editors check only some formal aspects, making sure that the submission is of academic nature, and a certain convention has emerged in this respect.)
MPRA offers a public forum for publishing papers, but not only that: It offers the possibility to publish comments on papers in the archive. This feature is not used. Maybe somebody has a suggestion how to organize discussions around papers such that people actually feel inclined to use such a feature.
So much about MPRA. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to communicate and discuss them on this blog.
RePEc indexes research in Economics, and one usually thinks about publications in journals and pre-prints disseminated by universities through the form of working papers or discussion papers. The fact is that a lot of research is also conducted outside these institutions. Take as an example central banks. Beyond their role of managing the money supply in their respective countries, as well as in some cases operating the payment system and regulating parts of the financial system, they conduct research to facilitate their operations and more generally understand the economy.
Much of this research is also present on RePEc. The following central bank have opened RePEc archives: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, England, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Poland, Spain, Turkey, United States (all Federal Reserve Banks). The following participate through an aggregator: Finland, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland. And finally, the following supranational institutions have a RePEc archive: Bank for International Settlements, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund. There are plenty of other governmental institutions participating as well, in particular statistical offices, ministries and regulators.
When you write a paper, you typically pursue several goals. One is to publish it in a good journal in order to get recognition for your work. The other is to get read and have an impact (and get citations). While publishing in a good journal may help you achieve the second goal, this is not necessarily so as the access to most journal articles is restricted by subscriptions. One way around this is to make some version of your work available in other ways. This is referred to as self-archiving.
This can be done in several ways, greatly helped by the availability of the Internet:
- Have a copy on your web page.
- Have a copy in your local working paper series.
- Have a copy in your institutional repository, usually managed by the library.
- Host a copy elsewhere.
If these options are not available, the paper can be hosted elsewhere. For RePEc, the Munich Personal RePEc Archive is ready to accept uploads, and has in a couple of years accepted more 8000 papers, including quite a few older ones that researchers wanted to make available to anyone. Another option is SSRN, but this archive does not participate in RePEc.
Regarding self-archiving, the most frequent asked questions is: am I violating a copyright when uploading somewhere a working paper? The short answer is that in the vast majority of cases, no copyright that you may have signed away to a publisher is violated by uploading a pre-print, i.e., a previous version of your work. In many cases, it is sufficient that the working paper simply does not have the published layout, or that it not be the final version. Many publishers even allow post-prints, that is, uploads of final versions onto institutional repositories, as these are more and more mandated by institutions and sponsors. To check what the policy of each publisher is, consult SHERPA/RoMEO. Only in very rare cases does a working paper need to be withdrawn once published in a journal.
Note that when both a self-archived and a published version of a paper are listed in RePEc with the same title, and both are present in an author’s profile, RePEc will link between them. This allows the reader to find where a working paper was ultimately published, or to read a paper hidden behind a journal’s subscription wall. Thus authors: never remove from your profile works that you have authored.
Finally, for more about self-archiving, check out the Self-Archiving FAQ hosted by e-prints.
Open Access Publishing is the free distribution of research, whether it is as a pre-print (working paper) or a peer-reviewed article. Since the creation of the web, more and more journal are choosing open access as their business model. One of them was recently Economic Analysis and Policy, published by the Economic Society of Australia (Queensland). To celebrate this, EAP has just published a special issue dedicated to the Economics of Open Access Publishing. Articles are written by economists discussing their experience with open access as well as by others involved in open access publishing. They cover the transition the publishing industry is currently undergoing, the surprisingly low cost of publishing an open access journal, the impact of open access and various open source aspects of the open access.
- Introduction, by Christian Zimmermann
- The Stratified Economics of Open Access, by John Willinsky
- But what have you done for me lately? Commercial Publishing, Scholarly Communication, and Open-Access, by John P. Conley and Myrna Wooders
- Publishing an E-Journal on a Shoe String: Is It a Sustainable Project?, by Piero Cavaleri. Michael Keren, Giovanni B. Ramello and Vittorio Valli
- Open Access Models and their Implications for the Players on the Scientific Publishing Market, by Steffen Bernius, Matthias Hanauske, Wolfgang König and Berndt Dugall
- Open Access Economics Journals and the Market for Reproducible Economic Research, by B.D. McCullough
- Estimating the Potential Impacts of Open Access to Research Findings, by John Houghton and Peter Sheehan
- The Economics of Open Bibliographic Data Provision, by Thomas Krichel and Christian Zimmermann
One of the most actively accessed RePEc series is the Boston College Statistical Software Components (SSC) archive. This was the first RePEc series to list software, rather than working papers, journal articles, books or chapters. It currently contains 1,275 items in a number of programming languages, over 1,000 of which relate to the Stata statistical package. Stata has the unique capability to download user-written components and install them over the web, and its developers have in fact written a ‘ssc’ command that accesses the archive. Users may search the SSC Archive from within Stata or from the web interface of IDEAS or EconPapers.
The series is the 7th most popular series (in terms of total downloads) over the past 12 months, as documented by LogEc for downloads through RePEc services. Downloads of Stata components (“ado-files”), including directly from Stata, are tracked separately, and total over 100,000 per month. A custom perl script is used to translate the RePEc template for each package into the Stata .pkg file format used by web-aware Stata. The availability of a single, reliable site from which user-written routines can be easily downloaded has made the SSC Archive a very important part of the Stata user community.
More and more institutions are adopting mandates that force their researchers to put their works, published or not, in institutional repositories. The idea is that this research should be openly accessible to all, instead of being locked by the password of an online publisher. Such mandates are, however, of little use if those works cannot be found by others. Search indexes like Google (Scholar) or OAIster are often not capable of sorting efficiently for the purposes of a researcher. It is therefore important that works from institutional repositories be also indexed in field specific indexes, like RePEc for economics.
RePEc does not house files, it only indexes them. Thus, the goal is not to push PDFs to RePEc, but rather to push the appropriate metadata about those PDFs. Software used in institutional repositories typically generates metadata, unfortunately not in the format required by RePEc (which predates any other format). Thus, metadata needs to be converted. We make available a variety of scripts, typically written in perl that are easily customizable to local needs, in particular for DigitalCommons, DSpace and EPrints. Other converters are always welcome to be added to the list.
Following up on the post two weeks ago about how RePEc tries to contribute to the democratization of research, it is interesting to how far RePEc reaches in the world. While we do not have any recent study looking at who uses the RePEc services as a reader, we know much better who the contributors are. First the authors, of which about 18,500 are distributed over 118 countries (and all US states). Then, the 960+ RePEc archives, which each contribute bibliographic data to the project, are dispersed in 64 countries. But some of those archives collect data from several institutions. Thus, we actually have publications from 70 countries (and all but five US states: AK, CO, NE, NH and SD). And this is how this would look like on a world map:
In the last issue of the American Economic Review, the following article caught my eye: Restructuring Research: Communication Costs and the Democratization of University Innovation by Ajay Agrawal & Avi Goldfarb. In short, it documents who gained in electrical engineering faculties from the reduced cost of collaboration through the introduction of Bitnet, in the early Internet days. The basic result is that the middle-tier universities benefited the most. Indeed, the top ones were already well connected with each other, and the middle ones took advantage of collaborating with the top ones.
The main goal of RePEc is precisely the democratization of research. Given publication delays in Economics, if one wants to stay abreast of developments at the frontier of research, one needs to read working papers. Before the Internet, the only way to get hold of them was either if you were already at a top ranked Economics department, or if you were somehow within a club of well connected researchers. Just being aware of the most current research was a challenge for anybody outside these circles. This is what motivated Thomas Krichel, as a research assistant in 1991, to find ways to learn about new working papers, and share what he found. This initiative evolved into RePEc in 1997.
Are Elite Universities Losing Their Competitive Edge? by E. Han Kim, Adair Morse & Luigi Zingales documents that Economics faculty in elite universities where more productive at least in part due to their location in the 1970s, and that such a location effect has disappeared by the 1990s. While it is open whether RePEc has contributed to such democratization, we have always favored it: everybody should be able to learn about current research, and everybody should be able to contribute to it.