Alexander Harin has been contributing to RePEc for many years and in many ways, including as editor of two NEP reports, NEP-ACC (Accounting and Auditing) and NEP-UPT (Utility Models and Prospect Theory). He is also an editor for the Munich Personal RePEc Archive, helping with the coverage of submissions in his native Russian as well as taking a heavy load with English manuscripts. His path to economics is rather unusual, having studied and published in physics before becoming an accountant. His wide interests then brought him to think about forecasting and decision theory, which lead hom to find ways to monitor the literature. The various RePEc services were perfect for that, and he decide to also volunteer in their development. You can, too.
RePEc relies on volunteer work to function, and many are contributing. One can help in small and big way. Simplice Asongu is one of those who have embraced RePEc and contribute in big ways. He is one of the editors on MPRA, the Munich Personal RePEc Archive which allows authors whose home institution does not participate in RePEc to upload their works and have them listed. While an institutional archive has some editorial control if only to preserve the reputation of the institution, anybody can upload at MPRA and thus a minimum of quality control is required: it should be about economics, it should be an academic work, it should not violate copyrights, the full text needs to be legible, and the required metadata needs to be complete. As material in any language could be uploaded to MPRA, this required a large diversity of editors that make sure the uploaded paper is appropriate. Of course, English is by far the most frequent language and necessitates several editors to handle the workload. Simplice is one of them, and he has so far handled close to 8000 papers.
Simplice currently works at the African Governance and Development Institute (AGDI), a think tank based in Yaoundé (Cameroon). He is an empirical economist principally interest in growth development and finance issues for Africa. Doing research in Africa is not the easiest, and it is remarkable that he remains productive in his academic undertakings in such an environment, and even finds time to help RePEc in significant ways.
If you want to help RePEc as well, even in small ways, here is a list of some volunteer opportunities.
As other RePEc services, the citation project CitEc is based on the volunteer work of the developers. Following the business model of the open source movement, CitEc is thus able to work without funding. The only costs of the Project are those related to the hosting of the server.
Since the beginning the server has been a physical machine owned by CitEc and hosted in a research institution. This year CitEc has moved to cloud computing by renting a server in a commercial company. We hope this new approach will improve the management of CitEc by reducing the problems related to technical restrictions imposed by the hosting institutions.
Over the past five years the hosting services were provided by the Valencian Economic Research Institute. We are very grateful to them for this support and look forward to continue the collaboration in the future.
Starting this year the new sponsor for CitEc is INOMICS. INOMICS is an international service for students and professionals in economics and finance. They offer a search for conferences, jobs, programs, courses and economics resources that can be accessed online (including searching through the RePEc database), or you can have your customized updates delivered to your inbox via their weekly email alert service.
We expect this partnership to be long and successful. Thanks INOMICS for your support!
Laura Ştefānescu is Professor at the Faculty of Financial Management Accounting of Craiova, Spiru Haret University, Romania, where she teaches Elements of Information Technology, Business Informatics, Databases, Decision System Support, E-Business.
In 2008, she started volunteering for RePEC by editing weekly reports on Knowledge Management and Knowledge Economy (NEP-KNM) and from 2010 as General Editor of NEP. In this respect, she prepares the weekly lists of new working papers from which the field editors will pick those relevant to their report. This crucial task is largely invisible to the public, hence we thank Laura for her selfless dedication to the cause of democratizing the dissemination of research in economics. And, unfortunately, she is the only woman among those most heavily involved in RePEc. We would welcome more!
Hosting RePEc services has been both a technical and an organizational challenge. Historically, the first hosting of what was to become RePEc goes back to late 1992. Manchester Computing Center, as it was known then, agreed to create WAIS indexed Gopher for the BibEc and WoPEc projects created by Thomas Krichel. The site was converted to the web in 1993. Manchester Computing Center were a national center for academic computing, providing services the UK academic community. They were fortunately forward-looking in their outlook when they started to with NetEc. It was broadly within their remit as Thomas Krichel worked in UK academia at the time. They continued to sponsor RePEc-related sites until the end of the decade. But they were not the only one. Washington University of St. Louis, where EconWPA was living, contributed a NetEc mirror, and so did Hitotsubashi University where Satoshi Yasuda kept as server in his documentation centre for Japanese economic statistics. So generally, it was for sponsoring institutions, where a RePEc volunteer lived to take up the hosting. If they agreed, there were usually stringent conditions. Machines are locked in a facility closed after hours, there are rules on firewalls. Or when the machine was based in somebody’s office, a cleaner could unplug a cable, electricity cuts could cause damage to the motherboard, failing air conditioning would damage disks. The list may look comical now, but at the time each incident was a disaster. There was not much of an alternative. Commercial solutions were too expensive to be paid for by an individual, and project funding would come to an end.
Things are looking better now. Cloud computing has become much cheaper. In 2006, the RePEc OAI gateway, sponsored by the Central Library of Economics (ZBW) in Germany was the first sponsored RePEc service. The CollEc service has become the second sponsored RePEc service. The server runs at a hosting company. The server is a dedicated machine, with 8 CPUs. They are running 100% constantly as the calculations for CollEc are very heavy, at this time. One single sponsor covers a 50 euros a month fee for the machine. In November 2012 the ZBW sponsorship moved to a similar machine. In December 2012, the NEP service followed. It uses a similar machine. The NEP team had several offers of sponsorship and chose the one by Victoria University of Wellington, mainly because they were the first to offer. We think the CitEc service will follow suit, but we still have to find a sponsor. We also could move the main RePEc site to a similar machine. While a single site may not require the use of a powerful computer we still need backup. Case in point, in 2008 staff at the hosting company discovered that the server sponsored by ZBW did not have a stick on it. They proceeded to dismantle the machine. No data was recoverable. Fortunately Thomas Krichel kept a backup.
We expect that RePEc will be using more sponsored hosting. It is a very good thing. RePEc volunteers have spent countless hours on broken disks, falling power supply systems, loose network cable than you can shake a stick at. Using sponsored hosting can leave more time to improve service.
Since 2005 one of the main RePEc computers, the one handling New Economic Papers (NEP) has been housed at the State University of New York at Oswego. NEP handles the weekly email notifications of new working papers in about 90 field-specific reports. As part of its academic mission, SUNY Oswego kindly let the RePEc project place the machine on its network in one of its server rooms. While Bill Goffe was the local sponsor, the vast majority of the effort of running it fell to Thomas Krichel.
Bill has now taken a job with Penn State and this server hast just moved with him. Bill and the entire RePEc team would like to thank SUNY Oswego for its support over the last seven years and it looks forward to working the Information Technology in Liberal Arts group at Penn State for hosting this machine for the foreseeable future.
RePEc’s aim is to improve the dissemination of research in Economics and related sciences. A critical part of this mission is to offer free services, but with the consequence that it cannot gather revenue for users. Thus, it needs to rely entirely on the work of volunteers.
Volunteers contribute big and small. There is a core team that takes responsibility in running the major services. Most members of this team have been with RePEc for many years and are looking for some fresh blood. One who is stepping up is Kyle Fluegge, PhD student at Ohio State University, who is now helping in the weekly generation of the NEP reports.
This brings us to another class of volunteers, the NEP editors who determine in the weekly list of new working papers Kyle prepares which are relevant to their field.
And finally their a very large group of volunteers who are in charge of indexing all the research items into RePEc. These so-called RePEc archive maintainers number over 1300, and a complete list of the participating archives can be found here. Another group helps editing individual uploads in the Munich Personal RePEc Archive.
If you are looking to help, you are welcome to open a RePEc archive at your institution, become a NEP editor or ask for more specific volunteer opportunities. Details are here.