RePEc turns 20

May 12, 2017

On 12 May 1997, a group of people met at the University of Surrey at the initiative of Thomas Krichel, then a graduate student and lecturer there. The topic was to discuss Krichel’s proposal of a scheme to exchange metadata about publications in economics, in particular working papers. With its adoption, RePEc was born, and its scheme is today still powering the data collection for all RePEc services. You can find more about the history of RePEc here.

RePEc was not born out of nowhere. Since 1992, Krichel had been trying to find a way to improve the dissemination of research in economics. He was frustrated that it was very difficult for him to have access to the frontier of research. Then, as now, it was disseminated through working papers, given that the journal publication process is excessively long in economics. But access to those working papers, then only in paper form, was limited to well-connected economists. With the help of a few documentalists who were receiving working papers in the mail, he started disseminating announcements of new papers through email lists. You still had to request them by mail, though. Later he put those directories on a web precursor, gopher, and then on the web, and finally with links to full texts. Older economists may remember WoPEc, BibEc, BizEc, HoPEc, WebEc, CodEc, JokEc, all under the umbrella on NetEc. Krichel, with the help of a few volunteers and a little funding maintained all those resources. But at some point, there was just too much material on the web to index by hand. A new system was needed.

RePEc was that system. What was devised in 1997 is still in place today. It has proven robust because it is simple, it is extremely cheap to run, and it puts the costs and incentives in the right place. It is simple because the metadata syntax is straightforward and requires only to upload text files on the respective publisher’s website. It is cheap to run because technically all that is required to keep RePEc alive is a list of files that point where the metadata of the publishers reside. The cost of indexing is on the publishers, who are also the ones who want to have their works listed (or are pressured by authors to do so). The collected metadata is then essentially put in the public domain, and anybody can create a service that uses this data. This makes also possible that RePEc can continue even if it does not receive any funding. RePEc services may come and go, depending on sponsorship, but the data is here to stay.

In those twenty years, what has been achieved? The goal was to enhance the dissemination of economic research, to democratize access to it for authors and for readers. To date, we have close to 2,000 participating archives covering 2.3 millions items in 8,000 serials (yes, this is more than one a day over 20 years), including close to 3,000 journals and 4,500 working paper series. 50,000 authors have registered with RePEc. 75,000 subscriptions receive paper announcements through email, more through RSS and Twitter. 10 million references have been extracted and matched. The few reporting services counted 100 million downloads. Additional services have enhanced the collected data in various ways. A list of all services known to use RePEc services are listed on the RePEc home page.

All of this, and more, has been achieved by volunteers, some sponsorship, and a little bit of grant money. While we think we can pat ourselves on our backs for all what was done in the past, we must also keep the future in mind. As mentioned, RePEc is built to last with no funding, that is good. However, the team of core volunteers has evolved little over time. They are all twenty years older now, and fresh blood would be welcome. RePEc also faces commercial competition with deep pockets, some of which is using or even started with RePEc data. While the latter aspect satisfies the mission of RePEc, enhancing the dissemination of research in economics, it may bite into the motivation of our volunteers. Or not. The key is that we continue to stay ahead with innovation, even if they end up being copied, like our citation extraction and rankings. But keep in mind that RePEc services are always free, and will not shut down like a commercial service that has become unprofitable. Suggestions for enhancing RePEc and its services are always welcome.

Finally a special thank you to all of the volunteers who have helped in RePEc in big, small and tiny ways. RePEc is run by economists for economists. Many volunteers are anonymous, or are to numerous to record. Here are a few: Core team, NEP editors, EDIRC contributors, Plagiarism Committee members, Biblio editors, Genealogy contributors, MPRA editors, and most importantly, all our archive maintainers. More volunteers are welcome.


RePEc in April 2017

May 3, 2017

What is new this month? The IDEAS search engine now allows to sort results by citation counts. We have proposals up for a vote to do some changes to the rankings. We welcome a new crop of RePEc archives: World Economic Research Institute, Scientia Moralitas, Université de Corse, Online Science Publishing, Johannes Kelper Universität Linz (II). And we counted 514,315 file downloads and 1,889,094 abstract views. Finally, here are the milestones we reached last month:

10,000,000 matched citations
1,200,000 book chapter downloads
333,333 papers disseminated through NEP
3,000 contributors to the RePEc Genealogy wiki

Watch this space in a few days for significant news.


Proposed changes to IDEAS/RePEc ranking: Euclid and outliers

April 19, 2017

The IDEAS/RePEc rankings are a popular way to assess the strength of economists, serials and institutions. They are built on a large number of criteria that are relatively stable in definition. As rankings matter a lot for some, we do not want to disturb the definitions before prior approval by the community. Hence, we are putting to a vote several changes for the aggregate rankings of economists and serials. Voting ends one month from this post, 19 May 2017. Any approved change is expected to be available in the May rankings released in early June 2017.

Euclidian ranking for economists

The Euclidian ranking of economists has already been computed for several months. It is based on an AER article by Motty Perry and Philip Reny. The score is measured by taking the square root of the sum across all distinct works of the square of the number of adjusted citations, the adjustment being for the typical number of references in the field of the paper (the field is defined by NEP, if there are several fields a geometric average is used, no adjustment if field is not defined). Thus, this ranking favors those who have some work that that is much more cited than others. The other citation criteria that are currently used are sums of citations, several with citations weighted by various impact factors. The only ones that differ from this model are the H-index (which favors a more uniform distribution of citations across works), and criteria based on the number of economists citing.

The addition of the Euclidian criterion would thus introduce a new angle in the list of criteria: having some particularly influential work instead of a larger body of work. As noted in the article, this criterion also has a number of properties that no other criterion has. Vote below if you think such a criterion should be added to those retained for the aggregate ranking.

Exclusion of extreme criteria for economists

The procedure for the aggregation of the ranking criteria currently excludes the worst and best criteria for every economist. The rationale for this is that one should not be penalized too much for being particularly bad with one criterion, and not shoot up too much in the rankings if only one criterion is very good. The fact that only one of each is excluded has been repeatedly discussed in the community, and given that that we may be adding another criterion (potentially the 36th) is an opportunity to revisit this. The vote below asks whether more extremes should be excluded from consideration. Note that it will be assumed that if you vote for “3”, you would also approve of “2” as the current status quo is “1”.

Euclidian ranking for serials

Similarly to economists, an Euclidian ranking can be computed for serials (journals, working paper series, book series, chapter series). For serials, we similarly construct an aggregate ranking across criteria. This ranking is little used to our knowledge. The question here is whether to include the Euclidian ranking in that computation. Note that ranking is not yet available.

Euclidian ranking for institutions

It is currently not clear how the Euclidian ranking for institutions would be computed. The problem is how to treat economists with multiple affiliations. For other criteria that are based on simple sums, the current practice is to multiply the scores by the relevant affiliation share. This does not make much sense for a sum of squares. There is a similar problem for the H-index that was resolved by redefining it. Should a solution be found, the same aggregation approach would be used as for economists.

Exclusion of extreme criteria for institutions

This poll is the mirror image of the one for economists. The only difference is that we have currently 32 instead of 35 criteria. Due to this difference, a separate poll is offered.

Update, 19 May 2017 Polls are closed. The Euclidian ranking will be added and two best and two lowest criteria will be removed. Same rules apply for economist and institutional rankings. The latter will include experimentally the root of the weighted sum of square Euclidian scores of their members.


RePEc in March 2017

April 4, 2017

Over the past month, the new help page has been further expanded. We also got a large crop of newly participating archives: Central Bank of Malta, Bank of Russia, Waseda University, Inha University, Technische Universität Chemnitz, Vernon Press, Asian Online Journal Publishing Group, Université Paris 1 (II), European Systemic Risk Board, Luxembourg Income Study, University of Portsmouth, and Universidad Loyola Andalucía. We counted 620,664 file downloads and 2,348,514 abstract views. And we reached the following milestones:

80’000’000 abstract views on EconPapers
90 countries with RePEc archives


RePEc launches Top 5 Journal in Economics

April 1, 2017

Many academic departments in economics require from their junior faculty to publish in top 5 journals in order to gain tenure or get promotions. The top departments ask for several such articles, lower ranked ones may ask for only one. However, the space available in those journals is very limited, a couple hundred articles a year. Given that many already tenured faculty publish in those journals, the space for the newcomers is very scarce and few junior professors can count on top 5 journals for their tenure hopes.

This problem has become worse, as more and more departments strive for such impossible requirements, in part because they are forced to keep up with requirements in the other sciences of their university, where articles are much shorter and journals publish more frequently, thus making it easier to get top publications. Without intervention, economics may get into the situation of choking itself by making it impossible for most department to grant tenure to faculty. In light of this upcoming catastrophe, RePEc is happy to come to the rescue with the launch of a new journal that will be accepting submissions from junior faculty aspiring for tenure, the

Top 5 Journal in Economics

will start today with volume 104 and a special issue on the Economics of Fisheries. For submissions and more information about the journal, click here.


Literature search on IDEAS: a tutorial

March 23, 2017

RePEc is foremost a initiative to enhance the dissemination of economics research. IDEAS is one of several RePEc services that make the RePEc bibliographic database available to anybody. This tutorial demonstrates how IDEAS can be leveraged to perform powerful literature searches.

Search

A good starting point can be to do a search for some keyword. A search on IDEAS can be much more useful that a search on a more general tool as IDEAS is dedicated to economics, thus results should not be “polluted” by results from other fields or that are not research. Say you are interested in some economic aspect of elephants (an example actually requested in a live demonstration). Then search for “elephant” is sufficient to give you all the economic literature on the pachyderms. There is a search form on every IDEAS page in the top right corner, and there is also a dedicated page with advanced options.

At the time of this writing, a search for “elephant” yields 298 results. For the following, we will use as an example one search results that caught our eye: Downward sloping demand for environmental amenities and international compensation: elephant conservation and strategic culling, a working paper.

Browse

Another way to find a starting point for your literature search is to browse by topic. For this, we have the JEL Classification from the Journal of Economic Literature. While by far not every item in RePEc has a JEL code, this again can be a useful starting point. This may require quite a bit of exploration for the newcomer, as one may have to navigate several branches until one finds the right topic. Or there may not be a close fit. For example, the economics of elephants does not have its own code in the JEL classification, it is somewhere in code Q.

Often, if you start with a reference paper, the associated JEL code can help you. On IDEAS, you find it in the “related research” tab. There is none for our elephant paper, but here is an example for another paper (as for all images, clicking on it will show your a larger view):

Another way to browse is to look at the publication profiles of the authors of the studies you have found. Often, at least one author is registered with RePEc and has assembled all their works into their profile. There may be other relevant items there.

References

RePEc tries whenever possible to extract the references in the indexed works and then tries to link those references with the holdings in RePEc. This process is fraught with stumbling blocks, but it worked in our example, as can be seen below. References typically contain the most relevant literature that preceded the work that is considered. These works are likely to be important. And as you browse or follow the references, you will start noticing that the the same works keep appearing. These should most likely be part of your final list.

Citations

As we have references, we can also do links the other way: where has this work been cited? This provides you with the literature that follows the work that is considered. And indeed, our example has been cited elsewhere. You can then explore these works, what references they have and what their authors have also written.

Find other versions

Sometimes, you cannot access a particular work because the publisher requires a subscription. However, there may be a previous version available that is in open access. In such cases, IDEAS will tell you with a red message that you can find a link in the “related works section” as in the example below. The links also work the other way: while looking at an open access version, it allows you to find where it was ultimately published. In some cases, it even allows you to find associated data or computer code.

Keeping current

If you want to continue to follow the literature you are interested in, there are several options available to you. See this blog post to learn about them. One of them it to use MyIDEAS, which can also be useful when you are doing your literature search, as is allows you to save items into folders as you work on IDEAS and then export the bibliographic references in various formats.


RePEc in February 2017

March 8, 2017

New this month: The IDEAS help page is being reworked, with upgraded FAQs. We have also started a recruitment campaign for RePEc Biblio editors. New functionalities have also been added for those editors. We have welcomed the following newly participating archives: Harvard University (V), Lima School of Economics, Universidad Nacional del Litoral, Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, Institute of Development Studies (UK), Center for Economic Analyses (Macedonia), Sosyoekonomi Society, University of Greenwich, Universidad Michoana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo (III), quite a list. We have counted 522,288 file downloads and 2,010,318 abstract views. And we have reached the following milestones:

1,000,000 paper announcements through NEP
900,000 cited items
25,000 book abstracts