How to follow new Economics literature with RePEc

October 17, 2016

RePEc is basically a scheme to organize and collect the Economics literature, with all the relevant data made available by the providers and publishers. RePEc services then collect, organize and enhance this data and make it available to the public. In this post, we want to show how the interested reader can stay up-to-date with the latest publications in their field. All these services are offered free of charge and are managed by volunteers.

NEP

NEP (New Economics Papers) is likely the most popular service in this respect. As its name indicates, it focuses on papers and not journal articles, on the premise that the frontier of research is with pre-preprints like working and discussion papers. Given the publication delays that are endemic in Economics, this makes sense. NEP is organized in over 90 fields, each with a human editor who determines which of the 500 to 1000 weekly new papers are relevant. The weekly reports are then disseminated through email lists, RSS feeds, and Twitter. On the NEP homepage, click on the report name to find these options.

EconPapers

EconPapers is a comprehensive service that allows to search or browse the entire contents indexed by RePEc. Its advanced search form has the option to select only search results that were added recently, and to rank the results by that date.

IDEAS

IDEAS is also a comprehensive service with the entire contents of RePEc. It has a personal area requiring a free user login, MyIDEAS, which allows the user to follow various objects, meaning that any addition to RePEc that correspond to characteristics set by the user are displayed. The objects can be serials (papers series or journals), authors, JEL codes, or results from the search engine. Results are stored in the accounts, email notification is planned for the future.

Socionet

Socionet is a service based in Russia that is comprehensive as well and that is available in Russian and English. It features the Socionet Personal Zone which allows a registered user to configure one or more robots that keep track of additions and either puts them into a folder on the website or sends them by email.


Quality control committee: looking for volunteer

June 13, 2016

The RePEc community is looking for a volunteer to head a committee on quality control for journals admitted to be indexed in RePEc. Here is some background.

There is a growing number of journal-like outlets that pretend to be normal open access journals. But in reality, all they do is take authors’ money, and put the content up on a web site. They do no quality  control. They have no editorial board that does any work. In fact, many times people on the board do not even know that they are on it.

Traditionally, RePEc has not done any quality control prior to listing additional journals. We believe that quality can best be assessed by users of the RePEc dataset. However, we have been criticized for helping these deceitful outlets gain a mantle of respectability through their RePEc listing. Therefore we take this step forward. We expect quality control also to be an issue with toll-gated journals.

The volunteer we are looking for will determine the exact name of the committee and its remit. (S)he would recruit a few committee members. (S)he would run the mailing list and maintain some web pages for the committee. RePEc can provide both. Anybody who is interested in this work should contact repec@repec.org.

We expect that this will not be a lot of work. We are sure that this as a duty that any academic can itemize as a professional service on their CV.


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.


Which keywords should one use for tagging research papers in economics?

July 29, 2015

This is a guest post by Andreas Kempf.

This question is best answered with the STW Thesaurus for Economics, a domain-specific controlled vocabulary maintained by the ZBW German National Library of Economics, the world’s largest information centre for economic literature.

The same content could be described by different keywords. A controlled vocabulary serves to minimize this semantic ambiguity by grouping synonymous terms and defining preferred labels used for indexing. This way, it ensures consistency in the storage of the literature in a database and facilitates uniform access to documents that pertain to similar subject matter. Complementary to the JEL classification codes which allow for a disciplinary classification of a paper, a thesaurus aids a more fine-grained and poly-dimensional description of a document.

Developed in the mid-1990s and since then constantly updated according to the current terminology usage in the latest international economic research literature, the STW Thesaurus for Economics covers all sub-fields both in the economics as well as in business economics and business practice. To select subject headings from the STW, an autosuggest service is available.

You may also download STW Thesaurus for Economics here. To stay updated about any news concerning STW please register at stw-announce. To ask questions and to get in contact with other STW users please register at stw-user.


New facilities for RePEc authors to enrich their publication metadata

November 7, 2014

In his recent post Thomas Krichel discussed some new Socionet facilities for authors which technically work as a creation of semantic linkages between different RePEc entities (papers, personal profiles, etc.).

As Thomas mentioned at the moment we, i.e. the Socionet team, are opening these new facilities to RePEc users for experimentation. The easiest way to get to take part is to have an  account at the RePEc Author Service (RAS). I have a conference paper with the technical details.

RAS registrants with linked publications can make experiments in seven main use cases. Let me take these in turn:

1. You can specify the roles of your co-authorship in the making of a collective paper. The idea for such a facility and initial taxonomy of author roles comes from a Nature commentary (http://www.nature.com/news/publishing-credit-where-credit-is-due-1.15033) as well as from the CRediT project. The Wellcome Trust, Digital Science, CASRAI, and NISO as members of this project that has also started a survey on the Standardized Taxonomy for Contributor Roles.

2. You can make some updates to the way your paper is described. It can be done in two ways: 1) by annotating text fragments of a paper’s abstract to provide readers with additional and/or newer information on the topic; and 2) by linking a paper to its newest versions, and/or to related papers that appeared later.

3. You can link your paper to show to readers an evolution of ideas or a development of approaches through a set of your papers.

4. You can contribute data on how the works referenced in your paper are used.

5. You can make recommendations to and/or share useful information with registered authors whose papers you are looking at. In this case your proposal will look as a linkage with some taxonomy between some of your papers and the one you are currently reading.

6. You can establish relationships of scientific development or complementarity between your paper and the one you are currently reading.

7. You can issue your professional opinion about another paper by using a specific taxonomy.

You can look at one of my papers where I made some enrichment. You will see the implementation of above points 1, 2, 3, and 4.

I plan to publish at the blog notes with instructions how to test each use case listed above.  It will provide discussions about taxonomies that we used, user interfaces that we built and so on.

We would like to have feedback from the community on this new technology and on created new opportunities for scientists. I see a lot of benefits for the research community related with further development of this approach.

If you have your account at RePEc Author Service, you can open your publications at Socionet, log in, and make experiments with its enrichment right now.

There are three simple ways to find a paper of yours at Socionet:

1. By a Google search with a string like this “site:socionet.ru krichel redif”, where keywords “krichel” and “redif” specify you as an author and something from a title or an abstract of your paper;

2. If you know your RAS short-ID (use RePEc Short-ID lookup tool) you can open your personal profile at Socionet and use hyperlinks to your publications there. To open your profile at Socionet replace in this URL the word “short-ID” on your real RAS short-ID –  http://socionet.ru/pub.xml?l=en&h=repec:per:pers:short-ID.  For example, Thomas Krichel has RAS shotr-ID = pkr1. So the URL to his personal profile at Socionet is http://socionet.ru/pub.xml?l=en&h=repec:per:pers:pkr1

3. If you can find a handle (RePEc ID) of your paper in IDEAS or EconPapers, you can just insert it instead of word “handle” into this URL – http://socionet.ru/pub.xml?l=en&h=handle, e.g. for a handle “repec:rpc:rdfdoc:redif” the URL should be like this – http://socionet.ru/pub.xml?l=en&h=repec:rpc:rdfdoc:redif

See also detailed instruction on how to log into the system with your RAS short-ID.

Note: at Socionet pages of papers, personal profiles, etc. at the right top corner there is a link to switch on the another language version. The link will be “[eng]” or “[рус]” depends on which language version is now opened.

Enjoy!


Why reported traffic is declining

September 28, 2014

Back in May 2012, we were complaining that reported traffic on RePEc sites was declining. This trend has continued and we need to revisit the issue.

Looking at the graphs at LogEc it is quite obvious that traffic is not increasing as you would expect, including accounting for the the fact that there is actually more and more material indexed on RePEc. Before looking for the reasons, we need to explain how these statistics are computed.

Only a limited set of RePEc services reported the detailed traffic statistics needed to compute this: EconPapers, IDEAS, NEP and Socionet. Aggregate numbers are not sufficient for other RePEc services to report their statistics, one needs a lot of details to determine whether traffic is robotic or human, to remove duplicates and to detect fraud attempts. If fact about 90% of total traffic is rejected for statistical purposes on those grounds. This complexity makes that several sites that use RePEc data are not reporting anything about their traffic. This includes: EconLit, EconStor, Google Scholar, Inomics, Microsoft Academic Search, OAISter/WORLDCAT, Scirus, Sciverse and very likely more. The fact that the data collected by RePEc is used in many places is not contrary to our mission. We want to improve the dissemination of research in Economics. But we seem to be able to track only a fraction of its use. As the number of RePEc services reporting statistics has not increased, while the number of sites using RePEc data has, we could explain the decrease in reported traffic as cannibalization. The overall use may have increased, and user satisfaction too, but we cannot demonstrate it.

Of course, given that we are filtering the traffic statistics, we may be filtering too much, and increasingly so. We have indeed tightened some rules over time, mostly to avoid counting new traffic patterns that are visibly not legitimate. For example, IDEAS threw out 3.4 millions abstract views (or two per listed abstracts) in July 2014 thanks to a single pattern rule that was introduced about a year ago. But this pattern was previously not problematic, so it is difficult to conclude that such tightening can explain a reduction in traffic. It remains a fact that the proportions of traffic that is excluded is steadily increasing. In raw numbers, IDEAS keeps breaking records. It filtered numbers, traffic is declining. Is it because there are really more and more robots out there?

The same applies to other potential explanations: Several institutions are caching our websites. several have all their members access the web through a single IP address and are thus undistinguishable to us. In both cases, downloads by different users look to us like they are coming from the same person and are counted only once. Is this more prevalent than before? Yes in both cases, but caching is very minor, and IP bundling pertains mostly to governmental institutions and corporate networks. How much this matters is difficult to evaluate.

The big elephant in the house is traffic coming from search engines, and most importantly Google. Google has changed its ranking criteria over time. Google Scholar has started privileging the original source over aggregators like RePEc several years ago, and the impact has been increasing as more publishers give Google Scholar direct access to their repositories. This pertains also to the general Google search engine. For example, traffic from Google to IDEAS dropped by a third from one day to the next on May 22, 2014, after Google decided to penalize the search ranking of aggregator web pages.

Finally, we cannot exclude that RePEc services are indeed less popular, which is bad. But if this is because people are more easily finding what they are looking for, then this is good, as the core missing of RePEc is to improve the dissemination of research in economics.


The value of RePEc — an introduction

September 13, 2014

I am Thomas Krichel the principal founder of RePEc. This is my second  contribution here. I plan to write more in the com on fundamental aspects of RePEc. And I’ll give some explanation about RePEc history. My particular expertise is how RePEc came about.

Today let me try to say something about the value of RePEc. In some, though not all aspects, RePEc is a digital and open equivalent of what librarians have long been calling abstracting and indexing (A&I) databases. A&I data is must common of academic journal literature. It lists descriptive information about journal articles past and present. These days, such databases appear to be of declining value. Librarians have been canceling with the argument that users want full text, not just an abstract. Here the description of the paper is a poor (wo)man’s version of the document itself, which of course would have that description. For WoPEc‐-the forerunner of RePEc‐-I took the opposite view. The full-text location was simply an attribute of the description of the paper.

In the early 90s, when I started the work on WoPEc, the fact that anything was freely available on the web was seen with some suspicion. I recall a radio comment at that time, about some company, and the comment about them was something like “They are now on the Internet, which is a euphemism for saying that they gone out of business”. Among economists in particular, the notion that free means cheap and cheap means bad, seemed to have a lot of appeal. Therefore I was keen that RePEc should not just be cheaper, but also be better than existing A&I databases. In 1998, I started to work on the key component of that vision, the RePEc Author Service. I designed the service and my student Markus J.R. Klink implemented it. At that point, I was not aware of any A&I product that implemented author identification. And for such there was no way that anybody would have implemented any service that would allow authors to claim papers. Of course the fact that Christian had worked on collection institutional data already was of great help to make this even more attractive.

Well, enough about pioneering works. I did promise to write about the value of RePEc, didn’t I? The key value I see is in identifying documents, authors and institutions and build linkages based on these identifications. Thus even if all papers in economics would be freely available, in open access journals or working papers sites of institutions and they would be staying there, we still would not have implemented the value of RePEc. The value does not come from individuals using a search engine and finding something of interest. Our value comes in the linkages like “this working paper was never published” or “this paper is cited by this other paper”, or “these two authors are co-authors”. If the coverage of economics through RePEc is complete, we can make such assertions with certainty. And we can make the assertions without further human work. For example through the fact that we have two papers that have identified authors, we can say that the two authors are co-authors.  Since the data is freely available that can be used in a co-authorship system. Or if we know that one paper cites another, we can export this into a system that solicits information about why the citation took place.  Linkages and open information go hand in hand in RePEc.