Twitter, Economics, and RePEc

January 29, 2016

Economists have been slow to embrace social media for professional use. We are used to write long papers, go a through extremely lengthly review process, and hesitate to take categorical positions (“it depends”). The quick and fleeting nature of social media does not seem to be a natural environment for economists. Yet, blogs have been active for many years with contributions that have helped discuss, explain and form policy. Some have provided platforms for research that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. And some have highlighted research that had flaws.

Social media is huge, and it can be a challenge for somebody who is interested in the economic discourse to find what is worthwhile to follow. Also, it is not obvious to find what social media had to say about a particular topic, especially if one wants to limit oneself to what “true” economists have to say. There is unfortunately a lot of noise in the economic debate, as almost everyone has a opinion that is not often backed by research.

RePEc has already tried to capture what is happening in the economic blogosphere. EconAcademics is a website that aggregates the discussion of economic research while monitoring about 1000 blogs. The idea here is to find those blog posts that link to research indexed on RePEc, on the presumption that they discuss research or use research to make a point. This is in contrast to a lot of the discussion of economics that very quickly veers into politics with little backing from actual research. EconAcademics thus makes those blogs better known that are more “seriously” into economics. The site can also be used to find interesting material for the classroom or simply to broaden once interests. We hoped also that this would encourage more discussions in the comment sections of those blogs. Anecdotally, this does not seem to have happened. Economists seem too busy to engage in any significant way in such discussions, with few exceptions. This is especially true when it comes to commenting papers. Blogs have not become a medium where a discussion can drag on for days (although it could have), as a careful reading of the papers would require.

What about Twitter? It would seem that the instantaneous nature of Twitter, as well as the 140 character limit of a tweet, would make it even more difficult to have serious and thoughtful discussions about research. It appears that economists recently have been warming up to the idea, and many prominent ones have joined Twitter and contribute thoughts on policy and current research. The difference with blogs is that Twitter somehow engages more discussion, and it also prompts interactions between people who would never have interacted otherwise: it makes everyone accessible. That said, one can also simply be lurking without intervening and learn from the discussion or the alerts. As we find from analyzing traffic to RePEc, Twitter can drive substantial readership to some papers. Another example is the previous post on this blog, that got substantial readership, almost all through Twitter.

How can RePEc help here? There are two ways. The first is that every new working paper that is announced through the NEP mailing lists is now also disseminated through Twitter (see for a list of all the available feeds one can follow). This has been in place for close to a year and has so far gathered a following of about 3000 users with a steady flow of further dissemination through retweets.

The second is that it is now possible for authors to add their Twitter account to their IDEAS author profile, thereby making their Twitter time line easier to find. All they need to do is to tweet their RePEc Short-ID to @RePEc_signup. This allows also to compile a list of economists present on Twitter, which we hope will grow quickly.

Economic policy is very much in the public sphere. Economists should embrace social media to steer discussions in the right direction, that is, in a way that is backed up by serious research. Blogs and now Twitter can be good tools for this.


Mentioning economic research on the Internet? Deep-link to RePEc!

November 24, 2015

Whether you are building a web page, writing a blog post, posting on Facebook or tweeting, as an economist engaged in discussing research on the field, you have to cite relevant sources. To do so, one is tempted to link directly to where said research is to be found: on a personal homepage, on a publisher’s website, or to the pdf file in a working paper series. I want to argue that this is not the best tactic. It is better to link to the abstract page for these research pieces on IDEAS or EconPapers. Why?

  1. RePEc links are stable. Homepages disappear, publishers and institutions reorganize their websites, but RePEc services have committed to never change their URLs, as they are formed from persistent identifiers. And on the rare occasion that those change, IDEAS and EconPapers offer suggestions on the 404 page where to find the paper.
  2. RePEc shows other versions. The reader may not be able to read the particular version of the paper that is linked to a gated website. RePEc services often offer alternative versions of the article such as a freely available working paper.
  3. RePEc provides related literature. The abstract page offers links to referred and cited works, to author profiles, and other related material.
  4. RePEc rewards linked authors. Getting cited on the Internet, even if it is with a popular blogger or a major newspaper, does not offer any quantifiable rewards to the authors. With a RePEc link, though, hits and downloads will counts towards authors rankings. Authors will be grateful for that.

NB: Linking to the URLs disseminated by NEP is fine, too, although only the last point is valid in that case.
PS: For blogs, the posts linking to RePEc abstract pages will be featured on EconAcademics.

New linkages with RePEc

October 23, 2014

In my previous post, I have alluded to the fact that the value of RePEc comes from linkages between identified elements. In the next post, I will set out a working example of linkage usage in the CollEc project. In this post, I’m discussing a direction for future work. It’s about creating new linkage type. Much of this is already implemented at SocioNet. SocioNet is a RePEc service that originated in Russia in the 1990s. They hold RePEc data and combine it with local data.

Recently, login data from the RePEc Author Service has become available to other RePEc service via a protocol known as openID. Soon RAS-registered users will be able to login to SocioNet without having to create a SocioNet account, just simply by using their RAS account. SocioNet then knows that you are an identified author. When you are logged into SocioNet in this way, SocioNet knows that you have written a bunch of papers, that I will now call “your papers”. Based on the knowledge of your authorship, it can assume that you know your work and the surrounding literature. It can give you get a personalized web interface based on RAS data. In that interface you will be able to conveniently supply further details about your work.

First, SocioNet can enquire about the role of your collaborators in a given research paper. In conventional abstracting and indexing data, all contributors to a paper are placed into a list of authors. But usually, the co-authors each have different roles in the papers writing process. You can indicate the roles using a simple controlled vocabulary.

Second, using SocioNet you will be able to provide linkages between papers. One of the linked papers has to be yours. The other paper may be yours, but it may not be.

Let’s look at cases where you wrote both papers that you want to link. One thing you may want to tell users is how papers relate to each other. So you can say that one paper is an abridged version of the other, that a third paper is a development of the fourth. Eventually, such relationships could be picked up by RePEc services to create commented links between your papers. This is particularly useful if you have a version of a paper you don’t like any more. You can point users to a better version of the paper.

When you only wrote one of the papers, the other paper has to be on the reference list of one of your papers. In that case you can bring in a vocabulary containing terms like “develops model from”, or “uses software from” or “uses data from”. There are two aspects to these document to document relations.

One is that guessing the context of a citation is really difficult using the automated ways in which the citation is actually being produced. If users can take a small amount of time to classify citations according to a simple menu than we would be able to get more valuable information about the structure of ideas across papers.

The other is that building relationship with sources of data and software would advertise the data and software and promote the sharing of these resources. RePEc already works with software.  It would be great if it could work with datasets, i.e. as and when reusable datasets would be considered as publications in their own right, then users could point to a dataset used in the publication right in the metadata. It could then be possible to create a list of all the publications using a certain dataset. That would be a great way to unify papers on a certain topic and of course, to promote the dataset maintenance as an additional academic endeavour.

Economics Replication Wiki now on IDEAS

July 16, 2014

A major part of the scientific process is the replication of previous studies, something necessary to confirm that things were done right, that they are not sensitive to details and that results have not changed with the passage of time, either because the methods got better or the data has evolved. Unfortunately, there is little replication in economics, and if there is some, it is difficult to publish it. One can theorize why this may be the case, but it is clear replication studies are little valued and not particularly welcome in journals. It is also quite difficult to determine whether a particular study has been replicated.

To help with all that, the Center for Statistics at the University of Göttingen (Germany) has launched a Wiki to index replicated and replicating studies in economics, with funding from the Institute for New Economic Thinking. As it is a wiki, it is crowd-sourced in the sense that any registered person can amend the records, and in particular add replication studies. One can also add to a list of articles published in top journals that should warrant replication and vote (anonymously) from that list (current winners).

The listings on this Replication Wiki are now indexed on IDEAS as well. The principle is similar to the indexation of Wikipedia articles: if a study on the Wiki has a link to IDEAS (or EconPapers, IDEAS will link back. Those adding or amending entries on the Wiki are thus encouraged to link to the IDEAS abstract page to create the backlink on IDEAS.

As any crowd-sourced project, the Replication Wiki will only live from the participation from the public. If you know of replication studies, consider spending a few minutes and add to this wiki.

New format for CitEc author and series profiles

May 14, 2014

In the past weeks, CitEc, RePEc’s citation analysis website, has released new authors and series citation profiles with improved features.

Series profiles:

  • Data coverage: 1990 – 2013
  • New indicators: Cumulative number of documents published until year y, Cumulative number of citations to papers published until year y, Cumulative impact factor.
  • New graphs: Citations by publication year, cumulative citations and cumulative documents published.

Authors profiles:

  • New profile layout
  • New indicator: i10-index. Number of works with at least 10 citations.
  • Included related authors: In addition to the co-author relationships, now we include links to researchers citing and cited by the author being analyzed
  • Added a new section with recent citing documents. It is possible to identify who has cited the author in the last two years.
  • New graphs: evolution of author’s h-index and citations received by publication year.
  • Authors can upload a picture to complete their profiles

You can have a look at some examples of the new profiles:

How to follow what is new in economics research

February 20, 2014

RePEc offers various tools to keep abreast of latest research developments in economics. Keep in mind that due to the unusually long refereeing and publication process in this field, following what is coming out in journals is often not the best way to keep current. The research frontier is advancing with working papers, and this is why RePEc puts a special focus on those. Note that all resources below are free, as always for RePEc services.


NEP (New Economics Papers) offers email lists and RSS feeds that disseminate approximately every week the latest online working papers across over 90 fields. Field-relevance is determined by volunteer editors who pick the appropriate papers among all working papers newly listed on RePEc during the previous week. Note that if you think a topic is not appropriately covered, you can volunteer as editor of a new report.


MyIDEAS allows you to follow new additions to JEL codes, author profiles, series and journals. This is done through the creation of an account on the IDEAS website. Once logged in, you can add the relevant items while navigating the site.

EconPapers Search

EconPapers allows to limit the search results to documents added recently to RePEc. Use the “Modified last” selection at the bottom left of the search form. One can also limit the list of items by JEL code and recency here.

IDEAS Search

Similarly, IDEAS allows to restrict search results to specific years. When looking up by JEL code, items are sorted with the most recent first.


EconAcademics follows the latest discussion of research on the blogosphere. While it does not necessarily mean this is the most recent research, it is often the case.

Little known RePEc features

June 29, 2013

Since 1997, RePEc services have found various ways of disseminating the bibliographic metadata collected with the RePEc projects. As the data and the types of data have expanded over the years, services were able to add more and more features, some of which are not well known. The purpose of this post is to highlight some of them. A broad introduction to RePEc services was recently posted here.

When a bibliographic item or an author is mentioned on Wikipedia with a link to a RePEc service, a link to the Wikpedia article in provided on the relevant IDEAS page.

The same applies to blog posts that have been identified through the blog aggregator for economic research.

A large number of viewership statistics are available at LogEc. This includes statistics for individual papers and articles, authors, series and journals. For the latter, this includes total readership as well as most popular items within a series or journal. For authors, one can also find the most read authors by country.

All RePEc services offer search functions, But if you do not know what to look for, you can look at a random item.

Publishers provide all bibliographic metadata to RePEc. Sometimes, their data contains errors that prevents the publications to be indexed appropriately, if at all. This can be checked here.

On IDEAS, one can export bibliographic information in various formats for various lists: publications of an author, references of an item, citations of an item, and citations of an author.

It possible to track additions to author profiles, JEL code, series, and journals with MyIDEAS.

MyIDEAS also allows users to flag items they run across IDEAS and keep them in their account. They can then be annotated, sorted into folders and exported in various bibliographic formats.

There is a Facebook plug-in that allows you to display you last three publications. Install it from here. Update: I am told this functionality cannot be obtained on Facebook anymore.

One can obtain a compilation of the publications of all members of an institution. Find th link on the institution’s page at EDIRC, where there is also a link to the publication list of the institution’s alumni, if applicable.

You can also create a list of publications for a custom group of people. See the current lists or create your own here.

If you want to make public a reading list for a topic or a course syllabus, you can create this here.

A few editors have started to determine the most important works in their research area. See RePEc Biblio, where you can volunteer to contribute, too.

Economists are very interconnected through co-authorship. You can explore this co-authorship network at CollEc, where you can also find how far removed from each other any two economists are (“degrees of separation”).

An important part of RePEc is citation analysis. Unfortunately, this fails for some documents, either for technical reasons or because publishers do not furnish relevant data. One can help our citation project CitEc through this form.

RePEc tries to match different versions of the same work. The conditions are that 1) at least one co-authors has all versions in her RePEc profile, and 2) the titles are very similar. When the process fails, for example when the titles are different, users can help through this form

Matching citations to items listed in RePEc is a very complex process, for example because there are many citation formats and because authors do make mistakes in the references. When matches are too uncertain, authors can help. They should click on the “citation” link in their RePEc Author Service profile and accept or reject proposed matches.

A new project tracks where and when an economist got his final degree, and who his advisor was. The data collection is crowd-sourced, so you can participate in the data collection here as well. See the RePEc Genealogy. Collected data will soon be used to evaluate graduate programs.

Unfortunately, we have cases of plagiarism. When relevant authorities do not deal with such cases, afflicted authors can turn to the RePEc Plagiarism Committee, which evaluates cases and possibly names and shames them.

And finally, for economics departments and publishers that do not yet participate and index their publications in RePEc, instructions are available.