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.


Moving time is time to update RePEc data

July 19, 2009

Summer is when most academics move to new affiliations or responsibilities. It is thus a good time to detail what needs to be done for RePEc data to remain accurate. There are close to 30’000 contact details listed in RePEc, yet only 466 have expired email addresses. You can help keeping this list short.

Registered authors

If your email address changes, log in at the RePEc Author Service with your old address, then click on “Contact details” to amend your email address and any other contact details. Note: do not create a new account with your new email address. This would create a duplicate, and then links to and from your profile would disappear once the old account is deleted. Remember also to amend your affiliation(s) if necessary.

Note that starting next month, authors with obsolete email addresses will not count towards their affiliation’s ranking. This is under the assumption that if the email address is not valid anymore, it must be because they have moved.

RePEc archive and series maintainers

If your email address is changing, or if there is a new person in charge, amend your series and/or archive templates. These are the *seri.rdf and *arch.rdf files in the root of your archive. There is no need to email us, as we extract from your templates the addresses for the monthly emails. However, if your RePEc archive moves to a new location, we obviously need to know about it.

Editors

Editor data is provided at two locations: by the RePEc Author Service and by the relevant publishers. In the first case, an email address change is handled as for a registered author. If you are not an editor anymore (and your editorship is listed in your RePEc profile), you can remove this by logging in at the RePEc Author Service: click on “Research” then “identified”, check your old journal, and approve the removal. To add a journal you now edit to your RePEc profile, either look at the suggested research items (if your publisher put in your name in the RePEc data), or do a manual search with the journal title.

Your publisher may also provide directly your name and your email address to RePEc. Your can see this on the listing of your journal on EconPapers or IDEAS. There you see also a technical contact. This is where you need to email to request a change in the listing.


RePEc on Facebook

June 13, 2009

Following a comment made in the suggestion box, a Facebook group has been created. Apart from the usual function of such groups, users can discuss a proposed application that would allow to include some information from RePEc in their Facebook profile. If you are both a RePEc and a Facebook user, you are welcome to join.


RePEc Author Service now 20,000 strong

April 30, 2009

Authors can register on the RePEc Author Service to create an online profile of their works and obtain monthly various statistics and newly found citations for their works. This service was introduced in its current form in 2004, and has just seen the 20,000th author register (in addition to over 6000 non-authors). While RePEc and the RePEc Author Service are not formally associations, we can still claim to be larger than the largest of all societies in Economics, the American Economic Association having about 18,000 members.

We are frequently asked how much of the profession we cover. This is very difficult to determine. Using the method discussed when we reached 15,000 authors, we can only say that we have currently a coverage between 41% and 80% of the profession.

Note that the RePEc Author Service is only a data collection service, as it obtains data from authors about what they wrote (among items listed in RePEc), their contact details and their affiliations. It solicits also help from them in identifying some citations. It is then the job of other services to do something with the collected data. Thus EconPapers and IDEAS display author profiles, EDIRC lists authors by affiliation, LogEc displays their download statistics and CitEc uses the collected citation data. In addition, rankings of authors and institutions can be computed.


Economics Search Engine

February 11, 2009

The Economics Search Engine (ESE) is a subset of the Google search engine that restricts its searches to 23,000 economics web sites. It is an outgrowth of Resources for Economists on the Internet (RFE) which lists and describes items for economists. Today many users prefer to use search engines to find resources of interest, so ESE was developed with the assistance of Hal Varian and Othar Hansson, both of Google. ESE not only searches web sites listed in RFE, but also web sites from RePEc Author Services (over 19,000 economists have registered) and Economics Departments, Institutes and Research Centers in the World (EDIRC), which lists more than 11,000 such sites. Thus, by searching at ESE, a user interested in an economic topic is searching over a substantial fraction of the web devoted to economic issues.

ESE is implemented with a Google Custom Search Engine, which enables users to set up a site that restricts a Google search to a user-selected set of sites. It takes some work to set up one as large as ESE, but smaller ones are quite straightforward and doubtless many would benefit from setting one up for their own needs. As with many Google services, it is currently in beta test-mode, so the results might be problematic at times.

To make ESE particularly easy to use, it includes a “Search Plugin” for Internet Explorer 7.0 or FireFox 2.0 and 3.0 users. This allows you to initiate searches directly from a search box in your browser; thus you don’t even need to visit ESE directly. You should be offered one for ESE when you check your search plugins when you’re at the ESE web site.


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