A new RePEc service: CollEc

March 11, 2012

A new RePEc service is now on-line, CollEc. The main goal of this initiative is to analyze co-authorship networks within Economics. To this end, it collects all the authorship data from the RePEc Author Service and computes the shortest path through co-authorship relationships between any two registered economists. From all this data, two “features” are computed.

First, a closeness and a betweenness score is computed for every economist. Closeness measure how close one is with everyone else. Betweenness measures how frequently shortest paths have a particular economist as a node. Of course, economists can be ranked according to both criteria.

Second, the website allows to display the shortest paths between any two economists, and one can be surprised at how short they often are. To play with this, either navigate the lists on CollEc or find the direct link to an author’s page on IDEAS (author profile, under “statistics”), then enter the name of another author.

Note that only authors registered with RePEc are considered. Also, not every registered author is part of this global network of co-authorship. For example, an author without a (registered) co-author is excluded. Also, an economist at the end of a path cannot have a betweenness score, mostly likely someone with a single (registered) co-author.


New IDEAS layout rolled out

February 16, 2012

One of the main RePEc services, IDEAS, inaugurates today a new layout. The old layout was about a dozen years old and suffered from clutter, given all the new features that were gradually added to the site (and more coming). It is also designed to facilitate navigation, especially for the newcomer who may not be familiar with all the functionalities. Finally, we hope it will direct requests for corrections to the relevant people. There have also been some improvements in the invisible part of the site to make able to accommodate even more material.

As the site contains about 1.4 million pages, it is sure that there are going to be some imperfections. If you notice anything, let me know!

And another service, EDIRC, a directory of Economics institutions, is getting a new layout as well.


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.


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.


Economists Online service launches in January 2010

January 28, 2010

[By Dave Puplett]

Economists Online is a new service that provides easy and open access to high-quality multilingual academic output in a single, cross-searchable portal. Economists Online contains research drawn from both the repositories of the project members and from the well established RePEc database.

The launch will be marked at the “Subject Repositories: European collaboration in the international context“conference in London on 28/29th January. Professor Nicholas Barr from The London School of Economics, who will be speaking at the conference, describes Economists Online as “A wonderful treasure trove of easy-to-find resources, all the more because so many can be downloaded directly”.

The Economists Online portal offers a search engine with a multilingual interface that can find both citations and full-text of a wide range of research, including articles, working papers, conference materials and datasets. In addition, the portal provides services such as RSS feeds, author profiles and publication lists. Abstract views and downloads through this portal are integrated into the statistics RePEc provides to users.

Economists Online was established by members of the Nereus Consortium, which consists of prestigious academic economic institutions in Europe and other leading Economics research institutes. Nereus is also providing full access to economic research from about 20 European institutions, both through Economists Online and RePEc.


Poll on internal disclosure of author statistics

January 14, 2010

The statistics compiled by RePEc are used for various rankings, for example for authors. While we still consider these statistics to be experimental, in particular those pertaining to citations, these numbers are increasingly used for evaluation purposes. We value the privacy of authors and only disclose the statistics for the top ranked ones. Authors get each month a link to their statistics, a link with a code valid only for a month. This avoids a link that may have been disclosed once to be visible forever.

We get more a more requests from department heads to obtain the data for members of their department. Our typical response is to have them ask directly the members of their department to forward them their monthly RePEc emails. But of course, we could also provide directly all the relevant information. The purpose of this poll is to see whether participants in RePEc would favor such a disclosure. The conditions would be:


  1. The request must come directly from the head of the relevant department, by email to Christian Zimmermann
  2. The request contains a link allowing to verify that this person is indeed head.
  3. Statistics would be disclosed only for the members of the department who are currently affiliated with the department, as indicated in their RePEc profiles.
  4. Those with invalid email addresses would be excluded from the analysis, under the presumption that their affiliation may not be current.
  5. The department head would be provided with a link containing the analysis, a link that expires with the next monthly update of the rankings.
  6. The department head needs to be a registered author.
  7. A department would receive at most one disclosure a year.
  8. We reserve the right to refuse disclosing statistics.
  9. By department, we mean any unit with a separate entry in EDIRC.

If you have an opinion about thus please vote below and/or offer a comment. Given the nature of the question, we would require significant more than a majority (two thirds) to offer this service. The poll closes on February 21, 2010.

Update (22/2/2010): This poll is now closed. There was little interest, with only 89 votes, which fell 52-37 in favor of the disclosure. With an approval rate of 58%, it fell short of what I consider a substantial majority for an implementation. Thus, there will be no disclosure to department heads.


Why Journals?

December 16, 2009

When I started studying economics in the ‘sixties, there was no Xerox. Journals were printed, and then mailed. Because printing (type-setting by hand, no computer at that time) was expensive, only selected articles were distributed through journals, and journal editors had to select carefully. Researchers and even students subscribed to journals in order to have articles of interest available; otherwise they had to copy them by hand, or excerpt them, or go to the library to have a look. Distribution by print was the cheapest and most economic way of distributing research.

Hence the journals had a dual function: 1.) They selected research articles and 2.) they distributed them. The first function (selection) was necessary because printing–especially printing of mathematical formulae–was quite expensive. So the bundling of selection and distribution had an economic reason.

This reason has vanished. It is possible to distribute practically for free (through MPRA for instance). So the question is: Do we need journals, simply for the purpose of selecting articles, as the function of distributing articles is redundant nowadays. Let me share some thoughts on the issue. I concentrate on research journals, whether open access or not. Survey journals like the Journal of Economic Perspectives or commentary journals like Economists’ Voice are another matter.

Do We Need Quality Stamps?

Some people argue that journals provide a “quality stamp” for scientific contributions, just like rating agencies assess firms or assets. We know that rating agencies may induce unwarranted herding effects, yet the point that journals perform a rating function is true. But is it needed? And if needed, can’t it be provided more cheaply?

As to whether a quality stamp is needed: This may be different for different groups of users. So look at different groups that may benefit from a quality stamp.

Researchers

In my fields of research, I certainly do not use journal names for selecting articles. I search the Web and have my subscription to NEP. Most articles (99%) in top-ranking journals are of no concern to me because they discuss issues I don’t work on and seem too specialized, technical and boring as to make it worthwhile to read more than the abstract. But I get the abstract much earlier through NEP and other services. And further, I obtain the articles I am really interested in much earlier (one or two years earlier) over the net than through the journals. (Note that the articles in good journals are typically available on the Net at the time of publication.) If I find an article on the net that I like, typically a pre-print, and see it later published in a good journal, I feel a kind of satisfaction about the journal, but this does not seem to justify the existence of journals.

Further, I am not interested in seeing only the good papers that some referees approve of. As I know my field, I do not think that referees know better. Actually many papers in top journals are not so good, and mediocre journals publish excellent papers. Further, many rejected papers are rejected for reasons such as being badly written, ill organized, or employing faulty reasoning, but they often do contain useful references and interesting ideas, and therefore they interest me as much as a superbly crafted paper elaborating on rather sterile detail.

Yet there may be the benefit coming with having an article revised during the refereeing process. The probability that the mathematics are correct is slightly increased. Typically, the exposition is improved, too. Further, the references are enlarged by adding some quite relevant stuff, but also by adding things suggested by the referees for sundry reasons that hurt overall consistency. But this does not hurt much.

The benefits going with having an article refereed carry side-effects, however: Sometimes the editors’ and referees’ demands make papers worse. In the same vein, have a look at Bruno Frey’s amusing paper, and especially at what he reports about Robert Frank.

Regarding the publishing of my own research I see that publishing in a journal does not affect citations, but making a paper available on the net does so. Hence journal publication is of very limited value to me (but I don’t have to care about the journals I am publishing in because I am close to retirement).

So, overall, I think that researchers do not benefit significantly from journals that publish research papers.

Hiring Committees

A benefit from having quality stamps is that this helps hiring committees to select candidates under conditions of ignorance. This may be true, but I would consider this a dysfunction: In the first place, hiring committees should comprise knowledgeable members; otherwise you would not need hiring committees and leave the decision to bureaucrats; and second, citation numbers are much better indicators for the impact of an author’s work than the journals the author has published in. So ignorant hiring committees may better resort to RePEc citation scores, rather than being enthused by journal titles. (But then they will end up with hiring candidates who work in fields many people work in. So they end up with conventional candidates, rather than creative ones. But this will be the case whenever you have incompetent hiring committees.) In any case, hiring committees won’t need journals, as RePEc citation scores are independent of journal names and do not rely on the existence of journals.

However, the reliance of hiring committees on journal rankings may entail strictly negative consequences. I read, for instance, that Notre Dame University intends to dissolve the department of economic history because the economic historians do not publish in mainstream journals.

It seems to me that hiring committees do not benefit from the existence of journals either.

Libraries

It is sometimes said that journals permit journal rankings, and this is a help for librarians for deciding which journal to subscribe to. This is, of course, not an argument for supporting journals. Without journals, there would be no problem of selecting journals, and the librarians could concentrate on selecting books.

So I conclude that libraries would perform better if we had no journals.

Economics Without Journals

Imagine we had no economics journals. What would happen? Presumably people would write more books. I would consider this an advantage, as knowledge is much too fragmented at the moment. Further, institutions would be in demand to channel the flow of information better than possible through journals, such as blogs specializing on some topic or another, and meta-blogs like Econ Academics. I could imagine that collections of papers on certain topics would emerge. The Special Issues feature of the economics E-journal provides an example.

A Suggestion for a Next Step

My impression is that the existence of journals is a feature of the past. Journals will die, and this will be an improvement for academic economics. The process will be sped up if new ways of channeling information are devised. So here is just one idea:

I could think, for RePEc, to devise a feature that lists related papers to any given paper. Google Scholar has a feature like that, but I think that could be improved tremendously for our specific purposes. An easy way would be to look at the citations of any given paper and give all papers with similar citations. This could, theoretically, be achieved by building on the citation data created by the CitEc project. If someone with programming expertise could adopt such a project, this would be a great help for economists world-wide. (As a side effect, such a feature would put pressure on Elsevier to release its citation data.)

There are certainly many more suggestions. I am looking forward to see them, perhaps in comments to this blog. And certainly my general point must be controversial. I must have overlooked some important aspects. The world can not be as inefficient as I portray it. Otherwise we would have no journals right now.

Maybe we can have an exchange of ideas.


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