MPRA, the Munich Personal RePEc Archive

August 27, 2009

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.

On versioning in RePEc

August 21, 2009

RePEc carries research in various formats. While journal articles are unique (with very few exceptions), working papers, as they are pre-prints, may be duplicates of listed articles, and they may even appear in different versions, either because they are published in different series, or because there may be updates within a series. We believe that is important to carry all versions, not just the last one, for the following reasons.

  1. Time-stamps: A working paper allows to establish when some research was conducted and thus determines preeminence of research ideas. Given publication delays in Economics, this can be important.
  2. Open access: Many journal articles have gated access. Such restrictions can be bypassed by reading working papers, which are mostly open access.
  3. Link to published version: It is still preferred to use published versions in citations, especially once a paper is accepted in a journal. The originally cited working paper is often linked to its published version.
  4. Visibility: Working papers are much more read than journal articles, both because they are more current and they are freely available. In addition, working papers are disseminated through NEP.

The process of linking the various versions of the same work is not obvious, however. With about 800,000 works in RePEc, performing matches on titles is a daunting task, especially as fuzzy matching is necessary due to slight variations in punctuation and spelling. For this reason, we do the matching only across the works listed in an author’s profile. This ensures that the likelihood of two works being different versions of the same one to be very close to 100%. But this also means that such matching cannot be done for works where none of the authors is registered, or where a registered authors did not add all versions to the profile, thereby indicating he/she is not the author of this particular version, rightly of wrongly.

In some cases, titles change across versions, or journal editors require a title change. In such cases, a manual link between versions can be added, just contact a member of the RePEc team with the relevant RePEc handles.

EconPapers and LogEc on new hardware

August 12, 2009

Thanks to the continued support of the Swedish Business School at Örebro University, EconPapers and LogEc are now running on new and upgraded hardware. This will allow for the smooth running of these services over the next few years as the coverage of RePEc continues to grow and new features are added to the services.

EconPapers is a website that displays all the bibliographic data collected through RePEc. Contents can be browsed in various ways. A powerful search engine is also available. LogEc collects and displays statistics about abstract views and downloads from EconPapers and other participating RePEc services. Both EconPapers and LogEc are run by Sune Karlsson.

RePEc in July 2009

August 4, 2009

The month of July is generally calm. Regular classes are not in session on campuses, researchers are on vacation or at conferences, thus it is to be expected that RePEc sees little new material or traffic. We counted 674,639 File downloads and 2,287,995 abstract views, relatively modest numbers, saw only six new archives: Universidad de los Andes, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (II), Spiru Haret University Brasov, Austrian Academy of Sciences, ETH Zürich (III), German Council for Social and Economic Data. The first added Venezuela to our list of participating countries, which is now at 68.

We still managed to pass a few thresholds:

400000 online articles
12500 listed book chapters
5000 subscribers to NEP-HIS, the largest subscriber base in NEP