RePEc has been put to many uses on the Internet, so it is natural that people are sometimes confused about what it does or really is. With this post, we correct some of the myths we have seen or heard about RePEc.
RePEc is a spider
No. A web spider visits every website and analyses what it finds there. This is what the large search engines like Google, Yahoo, Baidu and Bing do. RePEc only visits pre-specified locations on the Internet that participating providers have announced to RePEc. There, they have made available files that describe their publications, following instructions. This means that it is not sufficient to put a pdf file on a web page to have it appear in RePEc. It needs to be indexed by a publisher (which may be a university department, a research center, a policy institution or a commercial publisher, for example). If that is not possible, one may upload the pdf at the Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA).
RePEc is biased against X and Y
RePEc welcomes all content, as long as it is related to economics and finance. If some content is not appearing, it is because the responsible publisher has not made the small effort to participate. If some field is underrepresented, it is not coming from a decision that RePEc would have taken. Quite to the contrary, we have been reaching out to non-mainstream fields of economics as they can get much broader exposure through RePEc, a fact we have even documented.
RePEc privileges the big players
Anybody can be on RePEc. Any institution that publishes economic research can have its output listed on RePEc, whether big or small. In fact, democratization of dissemination of research, both for publishers and readers, is at the heart of RePEc’s mission. It is true that almost all the big players participate in RePEc by contributing their material, and many small ones do, too. Cost should not be a detriment to participation, as everything is free on RePEc, both for contributing to it and for using it.
RePEc is all about rankings
RePEc primary goal is the wide dissemination of economic research. Rankings have been a tool to get to this, but the main purpose is to index as much as possible of the economic literature and provide tools for interested parties to search, browse or be alerted about what they want to know. Rankings have proven to be an excellent means to provide the right incentives for this. And, no, RePEc does not stand for “Reputation Economics” but rather “Research Papers in Economics.”
Why can’t RePEc staff do X?
Because there is no staff! RePEc has no income, and must thus rely entirely on volunteer work. RePEc is thus pretty much based on self-help: authors maintain their profiles themselves and publishers do the legwork to index their output. If you have a suggestion, we of course welcome it, even more if you can implement it yourself. Or look for volunteer opportunities.
The St. Louis Fed owns RePEc
No! RePEc is basically in the public domain. Anybody can use the data collected by RePEc to start a service. Examples are EconPapers, IDEAS, and NEP. More can be found on the RePEc website. The St. Louis Fed hosts several of those services, such as IDEAS and the RePEc Author Service, meaning it provides the server and the access to the Internet for them, but it does not mean it is owning or controlling them.