RePEc turns 20

May 12, 2017

On 12 May 1997, a group of people met at the University of Surrey at the initiative of Thomas Krichel, then a graduate student and lecturer there. The topic was to discuss Krichel’s proposal of a scheme to exchange metadata about publications in economics, in particular working papers. With its adoption, RePEc was born, and its scheme is today still powering the data collection for all RePEc services. You can find more about the history of RePEc here.

RePEc was not born out of nowhere. Since 1992, Krichel had been trying to find a way to improve the dissemination of research in economics. He was frustrated that it was very difficult for him to have access to the frontier of research. Then, as now, it was disseminated through working papers, given that the journal publication process is excessively long in economics. But access to those working papers, then only in paper form, was limited to well-connected economists. With the help of a few documentalists who were receiving working papers in the mail, he started disseminating announcements of new papers through email lists. You still had to request them by mail, though. Later he put those directories on a web precursor, gopher, and then on the web, and finally with links to full texts. Older economists may remember WoPEc, BibEc, BizEc, HoPEc, WebEc, CodEc, JokEc, all under the umbrella on NetEc. Krichel, with the help of a few volunteers and a little funding maintained all those resources. But at some point, there was just too much material on the web to index by hand. A new system was needed.

RePEc was that system. What was devised in 1997 is still in place today. It has proven robust because it is simple, it is extremely cheap to run, and it puts the costs and incentives in the right place. It is simple because the metadata syntax is straightforward and requires only to upload text files on the respective publisher’s website. It is cheap to run because technically all that is required to keep RePEc alive is a list of files that point where the metadata of the publishers reside. The cost of indexing is on the publishers, who are also the ones who want to have their works listed (or are pressured by authors to do so). The collected metadata is then essentially put in the public domain, and anybody can create a service that uses this data. This makes also possible that RePEc can continue even if it does not receive any funding. RePEc services may come and go, depending on sponsorship, but the data is here to stay.

In those twenty years, what has been achieved? The goal was to enhance the dissemination of economic research, to democratize access to it for authors and for readers. To date, we have close to 2,000 participating archives covering 2.3 millions items in 8,000 serials (yes, this is more than one a day over 20 years), including close to 3,000 journals and 4,500 working paper series. 50,000 authors have registered with RePEc. 75,000 subscriptions receive paper announcements through email, more through RSS and Twitter. 10 million references have been extracted and matched. The few reporting services counted 100 million downloads. Additional services have enhanced the collected data in various ways. A list of all services known to use RePEc services are listed on the RePEc home page.

All of this, and more, has been achieved by volunteers, some sponsorship, and a little bit of grant money. While we think we can pat ourselves on our backs for all what was done in the past, we must also keep the future in mind. As mentioned, RePEc is built to last with no funding, that is good. However, the team of core volunteers has evolved little over time. They are all twenty years older now, and fresh blood would be welcome. RePEc also faces commercial competition with deep pockets, some of which is using or even started with RePEc data. While the latter aspect satisfies the mission of RePEc, enhancing the dissemination of research in economics, it may bite into the motivation of our volunteers. Or not. The key is that we continue to stay ahead with innovation, even if they end up being copied, like our citation extraction and rankings. But keep in mind that RePEc services are always free, and will not shut down like a commercial service that has become unprofitable. Suggestions for enhancing RePEc and its services are always welcome.

Finally a special thank you to all of the volunteers who have helped in RePEc in big, small and tiny ways. RePEc is run by economists for economists. Many volunteers are anonymous, or are to numerous to record. Here are a few: Core team, NEP editors, EDIRC contributors, Plagiarism Committee members, Biblio editors, Genealogy contributors, MPRA editors, and most importantly, all our archive maintainers. More volunteers are welcome.

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

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.

Volunteer recognition: Alexander Harin

August 28, 2015


Alexander Harin has been contributing to RePEc for many years and in many ways, including as editor of two NEP reports, NEP-ACC (Accounting and Auditing) and NEP-UPT (Utility Models and Prospect Theory). He is also an editor for the Munich Personal RePEc Archive, helping with the coverage of submissions in his native Russian as well as taking a heavy load with English manuscripts. His path to economics is rather unusual, having studied and published in physics before becoming an accountant. His wide interests then brought him to think about forecasting and decision theory, which lead hom to find ways to monitor the literature. The various RePEc services were perfect for that, and he decide to also volunteer in their development. You can, too.

Volunteer appreciation: Simplice Asongu

May 1, 2015


RePEc relies on volunteer work to function, and many are contributing. One can help in small and big way. Simplice Asongu is one of those who have embraced RePEc and contribute in big ways. He is one of the editors on MPRA, the Munich Personal RePEc Archive which allows authors whose home institution does not participate in RePEc to upload their works and have them listed. While an institutional archive has some editorial control if only to preserve the reputation of the institution, anybody can upload at MPRA and thus a minimum of quality control is required: it should be about economics, it should be an academic work, it should not violate copyrights, the full text needs to be legible, and the required metadata needs to be complete. As material in any language could be uploaded to MPRA, this required a large diversity of editors that make sure the uploaded paper is appropriate. Of course, English is by far the most frequent language and necessitates several editors to handle the workload. Simplice is one of them, and he has so far handled close to 8000 papers.

Simplice currently works at the African Governance and Development Institute (AGDI), a think tank based in Yaoundé (Cameroon). He is an empirical economist principally interest in growth development and finance issues for Africa. Doing research in Africa is not the easiest, and it is remarkable that he remains productive in his academic undertakings in such an environment, and even finds time to help RePEc in significant ways.

If you want to help RePEc as well, even in small ways, here is a list of some volunteer opportunities.

CitEc has a new sponsor

December 12, 2013

As other RePEc services, the citation project CitEc is based on the volunteer work of the developers. Following the business model of the open source movement, CitEc is thus able to work without funding. The only costs of the Project are those related to the hosting of the server.

Since the beginning the server has been a physical machine owned by CitEc and hosted in a research institution. This year CitEc has moved to cloud computing by renting a server in a commercial company. We hope this new approach will improve the management of CitEc by reducing the problems related to technical restrictions imposed by the hosting institutions.

Over the past five years the hosting services were provided by the Valencian Economic Research Institute. We are very grateful to them for this support and look forward to continue the collaboration in the future.

Starting this year the new sponsor for CitEc is INOMICS. INOMICS is an international service for students and professionals in economics and finance. They offer a search for conferences, jobs, programs, courses and economics resources that can be accessed online (including searching through the RePEc database), or you can have your customized updates delivered to your inbox via their weekly email alert service.

We expect this partnership to be long and successful. Thanks INOMICS for your support!

Volunteer appreciation: Laura Ştefānescu

September 12, 2013

lauraLaura Ştefānescu is Professor at the Faculty of Financial Management Accounting of Craiova, Spiru Haret University, Romania, where she teaches Elements of Information Technology, Business Informatics, Databases, Decision System Support, E-Business.

In 2008, she started volunteering for RePEC by editing weekly reports on Knowledge Management and Knowledge Economy (NEP-KNM) and from 2010 as General Editor of NEP. In this respect, she prepares the weekly lists of new working papers from which the field editors will pick those relevant to their report. This crucial task is largely invisible to the public, hence we thank Laura for her selfless dedication to the cause of democratizing the dissemination of research in economics. And, unfortunately, she is the only woman among those most heavily involved in RePEc. We would welcome more!

Cloud computing and RePEc

December 13, 2012

Hosting RePEc services has been both a technical and an organizational challenge. Historically, the first hosting of what was to become RePEc goes back to late 1992. Manchester Computing Center, as it was known then, agreed to create WAIS indexed Gopher for the BibEc and WoPEc projects created by Thomas Krichel. The site was converted to the web in 1993. Manchester Computing Center were a national center for academic computing, providing services the UK academic community. They were fortunately forward-looking in their outlook when they started to with NetEc. It was broadly within their remit as Thomas Krichel worked in UK academia at the time. They continued to sponsor RePEc-related sites until the end of the decade. But they were not the only one. Washington University of St. Louis, where EconWPA was living, contributed a NetEc mirror, and so did Hitotsubashi University where Satoshi Yasuda kept as server in his documentation centre for Japanese economic statistics. So generally, it was for sponsoring institutions, where a RePEc volunteer lived to take up the hosting. If they agreed, there were usually stringent conditions. Machines are locked in a facility closed after hours, there are rules on firewalls. Or when the machine was based in somebody’s office, a cleaner could unplug a cable, electricity cuts could cause damage to the motherboard, failing air conditioning would damage disks. The list may look comical now, but at the time each incident was a disaster. There was not much of an alternative. Commercial solutions were too expensive to be paid for by an individual, and project funding would come to an end.

Things are looking better now. Cloud computing has become much cheaper. In 2006, the RePEc OAI gateway, sponsored by the Central Library of Economics (ZBW) in Germany was the first sponsored RePEc service. The CollEc service has become the second sponsored RePEc service. The server runs at a hosting company. The server is a dedicated machine, with 8 CPUs. They are running 100% constantly as the calculations for CollEc are very heavy, at this time. One single sponsor covers a 50 euros a month fee for the machine. In November 2012 the ZBW sponsorship moved to a similar machine. In December 2012, the NEP service followed. It uses a similar machine. The NEP team had several offers of sponsorship and chose the one by Victoria University of Wellington, mainly because they were the first to offer. We think the CitEc service will follow suit, but we still have to find a sponsor. We also could move the main RePEc site to a similar machine. While a single site may not require the use of a powerful computer we still need backup. Case in point, in 2008 staff at the hosting company discovered that the server sponsored by ZBW did not have a stick on it. They proceeded to dismantle the machine. No data was recoverable. Fortunately Thomas Krichel kept a backup.

We expect that RePEc will be using more sponsored hosting. It is a very good thing. RePEc volunteers have spent countless hours on broken disks, falling power supply systems, loose network cable than you can shake a stick at. Using sponsored hosting can leave more time to improve service.