What is RePEc? How does it operate?

September 29, 2022

Many are confused about RePEc is and how it operates, in particular in relationship with the various RePEc services. The core RePEc team gathered and drafted an attempted at high-level explanations that are found below as well as on the RePEc homepage.

RePEc (Research Papers in Economics) is an initiative that seeks to enhance the dissemination of research in Economics and related areas. We want to make research more accessible both for the authors and the readers. RePEc is a crowd-sourced effort: a) thousands of people and organizations contribute the underlying data, b) a core team of contributors manage the system, and c) sponsor organizations provide the infrastructure. As such, the RePEc initiative has no central expenses, and thus can provide all services for free to all users.

How RePEc operates:

Every publisher or provider puts text files describing their publications on their server. These files follow a simple but rigorous machine-readable syntax. They can then be automatically mirrored and made available to the public on the various RePEc websites. Some RePEc services complement these data with additional information such as citations or author details. RePEc is thus a facilitator that organizes the data for others to use.

How you can use RePEc as a provider or publisher:

Join over 2000 providers and publishers to increase the visibility of your publications. Follow these step-by-step instructions to create your RePEc archive. They show how to quickly set up your RePEc archive on your http, https, or ftp server and describe the syntax of the required metadata for working papers, journal articles, books, chapters, and software. For the complete technical details on the infrastructure and the metadata, you can also read about the Guilford protocol and ReDIF.

How you can use RePEc as a reader:

You can explore economic literature on two RePEc services. On EconPapers and IDEAS, search and browse, or follow links to author profiles, references, citations, keywords, or classifications. You can get notifications of new material with two other RePEc services, NEP and MyIDEAS.

How you can use RePEc as an author:

With the RePEc Author Service, you can create a profile of your indexed works. This allows the other RePEc services to link your profile to your works and vice versa. You also get notifications about the visibility of your works and citations newly found by CitEc. And if your publisher does not participate in RePEc, you can upload missing items to MPRA, copyright permitting.

How you can use RePEc as an institution:

RePEc can help you make your working papers (pre-prints) more visible, track how your researchers publish, and provide metrics to evaluate impact.

How you can leverage RePEc data as a researcher:

Data assembled by RePEc can be used for many purposes. Examples are academic research, tracking how working papers get published, adding metrics to a website, and evaluating researchers or institutions. We have instructions on how to access the data, including through an API.

There is much more that RePEc can do for you. Explore the RePEc homepage and the various services listed there!


RePEc in August 2022

September 6, 2022

Summer (vacation) is over and RePEc users are getting back to work. Just one new archive last month: New Zealand Productivity Commission. We counted 373,428 file downloads and 1,487,271 abstract views through reporting services. And we reached the following milestones:

240,000,000 cumulative article abstract views
2,500,000 cumulative software component downloads
1,700,000 items with extracted references
65,000 registered authors
5,000 software components available online


IDEAS turns 25

September 1, 2022

25 years ago, IDEAS was launched. A few months after RePEc was created, it built on the data about publications that RePEc was was making available. At launch, about 40,000 papers were indexed, with about 4,000 being online. Now the numbers amount to over 4.1 million and 3.7 million. Abstract pages have received a total of about 400 million unique views from every country, with raw totals a large multiple of that thanks to a myriad of bots (hint: an API is available).

IDEAS did not start in a vacuum. At the time, two other sites were already displaying RePEc data, BibEc and WoPEc, part of the NetEc family of websites dedicated to Economics. The first release of IDEAS was in fact based on code used for these sites, contributed by José Manuel Barrueco Cruz. Over the next years other sites were created to display RePEc data for the user, with ultimately only EconPapers and IDEAS surviving the healthy competition. Other sites outside of the repec.org domain also leverage RePEc data.

Initially, IDEAS was just displaying the bibliographic data that is at the core of RePEc. Over time, it gradually integrated data from other RePEc services, such as author profiles, references and citations, which fields they belong to, how much they are viewed. Rankings and impact factors are now the most popular single pages after the search form.

IDEAS has also little by little added some custom features for the user, most prominently MyIDEAS that allows economists to build an online bibliography or track new additions to RePEc in many customizable ways. With the recent pandemic, a calendar of online seminars was introduced and proved to be quite popular.

IDEAS never got funding. It has been hosted over time by three sponsors: Université du Québec à Montréal, the University of Connecticut, and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.


RePEc in July 2022

August 8, 2022

While the Summer months typically put RePEc sites somewhat into a lull in terms of traffic, the CitEc project continues to add newly discovered citations at a furious pace. We welcome three new RePEc archives: Regional Agency for Technology and Innovation (Puglia), CoronaNet Project, INAPP. We counted 364,085 file downloads and 1,490,661 abstract views on the reporting RePEc services. And here are the milestones reached last month:
2,000,000 cumulative book chapter downloads
15,000 authors in the RePEc Genealogy
5,000 indexed software components


RePEc Genealogy, the academic family tree of economists

August 5, 2022

The RePEc Genealogy has now reached 15,000 entries. This site describes where and when economists got their terminal degree, as well as who their advisors were. This allows to build a family tree of the economics profession as well as gather information about graduate programs.

The data is gathered by crowdsourcing, much like a wiki: users registered with the RePEc Author Service can log in to the RePEc Genealogy and add or amend the records for themselves, their students, or their advisors. They can also add former students of the graduate programs they currently work with or graduated from.

Beyond displaying it on the RePEc Genealogy site, the collected data is used in a myriad on ways:

  • Various studies on economists have leveraged this data.
  • Profiles of economists on IDEAS display part of the RePEc Genealogy information where available.
  • EDIRC, the directory of economics institutions, has for each relevant institutions a list of alumni and a link to a compilation of their publications.
  • Female representation in economics by cohort.
  • How well graduate students do is a criterion for the rankings of economists and institutions.
  • The year of graduation is also used for rankings of economists by cohort.

Over 4000 people have already contributed to the RePEc Genealogy, everyone is welcome to make it more complete and useful.


RePEc in June 2022

July 11, 2022

CitEc is continuing a remarkable effort at citation matching, adding several million in a month. We welcomed a few new archives: International Association on Public and NonProfit Marketing, Yildiz Social Science Review, Bulletin of Political Economy, Spanish National Markets and Competition Commission (CNMC), Universidad ORT Uruguay. We counted 428,920 file downloads and 1,735,689 abstract views last month. And we reached the following milestones:
25,000,000 matched citations
1,000,000 journal articles with extracted references
600,000 working papers with extracted references
30,000 books available online
30,000 book chapters with citations
20,000 books with citations


How publishers can ensure their data looks right on RePEc

July 4, 2022

All material indexed in RePEc is provided by the respective publishers. They make this information available using a metadata syntax defined in 1997 by RePEc and that has not changed since, except for a few additions. But adhering to this syntax is important, as errors disqualify items from indexing and other problems may leads to various issues. If something is amiss or missing, every IDEAS or EconPapers page has an email contact listed for alerting the maintainer of the relevant data.

That said, RePEc helps the maintainers in various ways so that they can address proactively with any problems. They receive each month and email with various statistics and a link to their “problems” page on the EconPapers checker (add the three-letter archive code to the URL to get more details), which shows data download problems, detected syntax issues, and bad URLs to full text. EconPapers and IDEAS also provide FAQs. Also, re-reading the intial setup instructions or the ones for new maintainers can prove useful.

The most frequent issues that appears in the EconPapers checker are:

  • RePEc archive has moved from http to https: the maintainer needs to change the URL line in the archive template and alert someone in the RePEc team about the new location to fix the download process.
  • A series or journal is missing the correspondent series template.
  • A handle (identifier) is used multiple times. Handles are supposed to uniquely and permanently define any item in RePEc. Re-using them is a source of major problems.
  • Missing end-of-line that merges two fields.

Other problems cannot be detected through an automated process. Here, maintainers need to follow appropriate conventions or check that the visuals on the RePEc sites look right. Examples are:

  • Inappropriate use of a data field. Examples are putting a working paper number in a title, adding affiliations to an author name, putting an abstract in a title, or putting keywords and JEL classifications in the abstract. Each piece of information has its own field so can appropriate bibliographic records can be created.
  • Each author needs to be in their own author name field. Lumping them together in one field makes it impossible to attribute the work to registered authors.
  • When some work is available in multiple languages or is translated, each title goes into it own title fields instead of being merged into one. Also, the mention of the language goes into the language field, not in the title.
  • Errors in character encoding leads to records with funny looking characters. This happens by cutting-and-pasting strings from a file in one encoding to a file with a different encoding. Characters with accents (é, ñ, ü, ç, å), ligatures (ff, fi, ffl, æ, ß), non-latin character sets (cyrillic, arabic), and other special characters (long hyphens, Windows quotation marks and apostrophes) are especially problematic. They also make author or citation matching more difficult. The solutions are to fix these individually in the RePEc files, and if those are encoded as UTF-8 use and .redif extension instead of .rdf (be careful not to have both files in the RePEc archive, leading to duplicated handles).
  • No HTML markups should be present. The result in RePEc services and sites in unpredictable. The only exception is to be used to separate paragraphs in an abstract. The same applies to LaTeX or TeX markup.

RePEc in May 2022

June 8, 2022

There has been much reason for celebration last month. RePEc is now 25 years old. It reached 4 million indexed research items. And a rewrite of the CitEc matching algorithm increased the number of matched citations references by 8%. In addition, we welcome some new RePEc archives:State Agency for Intellectual Property (Moldova), Universidad de Santiago de Chile, Institute for Management and Planning Studies (Iran). We counted 507,098 file downloads and 2,000,566 abstract views. And we reached the following milestones:

20,000,000 matched citations
4,000,000 indexed items
1,600,000 items with extracted references
500,000 cited working papers


RePEc celebrates 25 years and 4 million indexed items

May 12, 2022

25 years ago, on 12 May 1997, a meeting among a few economists and librarians laid the foundation for RePEc. Thomas Krichel describes this meeting in a recent RePEc blog post. As more research was starting to get shared on the web, it became infeasible to index all of it by hand. A new scheme was agreed on that, in essence, set rules for sharing metadata about research publications in economics. These rules still apply today, despite the tremendous growth that RePEc enjoyed. Over 2000 publishers maintain RePEc archives, carrying over 10,000 serials, including close to 4,000 journals. 25 years ago, no one was expecting that much.

Coincidentally, a few days ago RePEc surpassed 4 million indexed research items. The graph about shows the evolution of the number of research items. What is striking is that there is steady growth and that each additional million takes less time. Thus it is not that there was a big stash of research that was waiting to be tapped. Rather, the body of research evolved steadily with the popularity of RePEc. Its composition changed over time, though. The goal of RePEc was always to enhance the dissemination of research in economics, and early on the biggest need was for working papers (pre-prints) that did not enjoy the marketing or networking of commercial publishers. But soon the latter realized that they needed to participate in RePEc as well, as RePEc became the central point of dissemination in the field for big and small publishers. As all RePEc services are free for users, authors, and publishers, RePEc can thus democratize access to research.

Calling it a central point is kind of ironic, because RePEc is anything but centralized. The scheme relies on each publisher maintaining the relevant metadata on their own ftp or web site. The only central aspect of RePEc is a file directory containing pointers where those decentralized RePEc archives sit. All data is public, and other services can leverage it to disseminate economic research in any way they see fit. Now most dissemination services, not just those within the repec.org domain, use RePEc data one way or another. This makes RePEc an extremely efficient dissemination tool. It reaches a lot of users at minimal cost, as the publishers are in charge of hosting content and indexing. Even running a service using RePEc data is cheap, as the full-text content is still with the publishers. Various sponsors take care of the hosting costs or host themselves a few servers.

To make things right, there are still some non-monetary costs, though. A team of volunteers takes care of new RePEc archives, answers queries, monitors data quality, provides updates to participants, and maintains some important RePEc websites. For more details, see a short history of RePEc, instructions on how publishers participate in RePEc, and a list of RePEc archives, which are currently located in 103 countries.


RePEc in April 2022

May 6, 2022

Shortly before RePEc celebrates its 25th birthday, we have to deplore the closure of Socionet. It used to display RePEc data for Russian users but ran into legal issues. We welcomed a few new RePEc archives: Superintendence of Companies of Ecuador, Omsk Humanitarian Academy, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Lodz University Press, Strategic Management Business Journal. We counted 493,485 file downloads and 1,888,113 abstract views. And we reached the following milestones:
125,000,000 cumulative downloads from reporting RePEc services
120,000,000 cumulative abstract views on EconPapers