In light of today’s announcement that Elsevier has bought SSRN, we take the opportunity to clarify whether this could happen to RePEc. The short answer is: no, this is impossible. The long answer is below.
The objective of RePEc is not not maximize profit or monetary value. It is to maximize global welfare, to use terminology from economics, by enhancing the dissemination of economic research for the publishers, the authors and the readers. The democratization of dissemination is a crucial part of our mission. Hence, RePEc was designed to run at extremely low cost, hence making it possible to make all services available for free. RePEc uses volunteer work and sponsorship for hardware, hosting and bandwidth. Volunteers and sponsors are willing to participate because of this mission. This means in particular that RePEc has no revenue. Thus it is unlikely a takeover target.
Furthermore, RePEc is actually just a set of principles of how to organize metadata about publications in economics. The participating publishers simply adhere to those principles to get their metadata included in RePEc. Anybody can come and use this data to create a service that does something with the RePEc data. There is nothing that could be bought, as all the data is actually put in the public domain. One could create a RePEc service that generates revenue. This would be against the principle of RePEc, and nobody can prevent somebody else to create a free RePEc service that does the same. Thus it is unlikely to happen. And in any case, this would still not mean a takeover of RePEc.
We care about our community of users and are here to serve them. RePEc is there to stay, and stay independent and free.
I made a similar point regarding BE Press in an earlier Blog (https://blog.repec.org/2013/03/16/bepress-journals-are-not-open-access-anymore/) and repeat it here, as it may be of interest for people working on property rights:
“We see here that well-defined property rights might bring about economic inefficiency: If a journal can be sold, it will be sold and turned into a goldmine, even if this is inefficient from an economic point of view. This can never happen to RePEc, as it is not owned by anybody. Under the presumption that open access is economically more efficient than gated access, ill defined property rights contribute to efficiency.”