How to make sense of the RePEc alphabet soup

September 29, 2018

RePEc is a uniquely organized initiative that brings with it an alphabet soup that confuses a lot of people, and we cannot blame them. Is a paper listed on IDEAS or RePEc? How is NEP different from RePEc? What is the difference between IDEAS and EconPapers? Etc.

For starters, RePEc (Research Papers in Economics, hence the capitalization) is a way to organize the data about publications of all sorts in Economics, and make all that available. Note that there is no central database, as every contributing publishers makes the data available on its own website following the rules set by RePEc. Beyond those rules, RePEc only maintains the list of pointers to where the publishers have put their RePEc archives.

Then, basically anybody can come and use that data. Some have decided to do that more formally and have their service listed in the repec.org domain. Examples would be EconPapers, IDEAS, and NEP. Others prefer not to or integrate the data in a larger scheme that spans more fields. Examples are Econlit, WorldCat, EBSCO, Google Scholar or ResearchGate. A third type of service uses part of RePEc data to enhance it and feed it back to RePEc. Examples for that are CitEc, EDIRC, and the RePEc Author Service. For a full list of the RePEc services that we know of, see the RePEc site.

Thus, RePEc is the basis for these services, to varying degrees, but they are independently run and RePEc has no say how they should be run. In fact, RePEc is not even a formal organization. Thus IDEAS is using RePEc data just as EconPapers is using RePEc data, but they are in no way directed by RePEc. And, the big difference between IDEAS and EconPapers is that they were initiated by different people. In the spirit of healthy competition, use the one you prefer.


Help build the academic tree of Economics: the RePEc Genealogy

April 22, 2018

Beyond the open bibliography that lays the foundation of RePEc, various services have emerged that enhance the data collected with RePEc. One of them is the RePEc Genealogy. The goal of this initiative is to build an academic family tree for Economics, recording who was advised by whom, where and when. It thus tries to build links among the over 50,000 economists registered with the RePEc Author Service as well as the institutions listed in EDIRC. At the time of writing this, close to 13,000 economists from over 1000 programs are listed in the RePEc Genealogy.

The data is collected by the community: The RePEc Genealogy is a wiki, and all you need is a registration with the RePEc Author Service to add information to it. You can make sure your own record is complete, add your students or whose of your advisor, or ensure that your graduate program or alma mater are properly recorded. Over 3,000 economists have already contributed to it. Go to the RePEc Genealogy crowdsourcing tool to participate and see some statistics about the genealogy.

How is the collected data used? Of course, one can browse the site for information. But the data is also used in other ways: IDEAS uses it to complement author profiles, to compute rankings of graduate programs (publications from all years or last 10 years), a ranking of economist by graduation cohorts. Finally, data from the Genealogy is starting to be used for research, along with data from the rest of RePEc. You could be part of the data that you are analysing! For a listing of papers using RePEc data, see here.


IDEAS turns 20

September 27, 2017

IDEAS just turned 20. Launched in September 1997 on a web server sponsored by Université du Québec à Montréal and adapted from scripts written for WoPEc by José Manuel Barrueco Cruz (who is now in charge of citation analysis at CitEc), the site initially displayed 40,000 papers and articles. Now, there are sixty times more documents. A screen shot from the early days is below.

In 2002, IDEAS moved to the University of Connecticut, followed by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, where it is still hosted. Over time, the site served 3.6 billion pages, although the vast majority where requested by web spiders for the major search engines and some page skimmers (who should really use the API). Once all this robotic access is cleared, the abstract pages alone where read almost 300 million times (or an average of 120 times for each listed item) and 70 million downloads were recorded (or an average of 31 times for each document available for download).

A few dates relevant for the history of IDEAS:


  • September 1997: IDEAS opens for business at the Université du Québec à Montréal
  • June 1998: the first ranking is published, covering abstract views for items and serials
  • August 2000: the first author ranking
  • February 2001: the first institution ranking
  • October 2002: IDEAS is now at the University of Connecticut
  • June 2011: IDEAS moves to the St. Louis Fed
  • January 2013: MyIDEAS is available
  • December 2014: IDEAS becomes mobile friendly


Why linking to research on RePEc sites makes sense

August 30, 2017

If you participate in online discussions about economics research, if you have an online syllabus, or if you share some literature through email, you are likely providing a link to some full text on a publisher’s site. I want to argue here that it is a better idea to link to a RePEc service (abstract pages on EconPapers and IDEAS or links from NEP reports). The reasons are the following:


  1. Link to full texts go stale. RePEc URLs are permanent and contain updated links to full texts.
  2. If the full text link is gated behind a paywall, the RePEc link can still provide context and often a link to a free version.
  3. Alternatively, if the full text link is going to a working paper, a RePEc page may have a link to a version published in a journal.
  4. Clicking on a RePEc link will give the author(s) credit, this cannot happen if the link goes directly to the full text.
  5. A RePEc abstract page also provides related research (cites, references) and links to author profiles. The interested reader can thus explore for more.

EconPapers and IDEAS each have easy tools if you want to share a link through social media or email. Use them!


Literature search on IDEAS: a tutorial

March 23, 2017

RePEc is foremost a initiative to enhance the dissemination of economics research. IDEAS is one of several RePEc services that make the RePEc bibliographic database available to anybody. This tutorial demonstrates how IDEAS can be leveraged to perform powerful literature searches.

Search

A good starting point can be to do a search for some keyword. A search on IDEAS can be much more useful that a search on a more general tool as IDEAS is dedicated to economics, thus results should not be “polluted” by results from other fields or that are not research. Say you are interested in some economic aspect of elephants (an example actually requested in a live demonstration). Then search for “elephant” is sufficient to give you all the economic literature on the pachyderms. There is a search form on every IDEAS page in the top right corner, and there is also a dedicated page with advanced options.

At the time of this writing, a search for “elephant” yields 298 results. For the following, we will use as an example one search results that caught our eye: Downward sloping demand for environmental amenities and international compensation: elephant conservation and strategic culling, a working paper.

Browse

Another way to find a starting point for your literature search is to browse by topic. For this, we have the JEL Classification from the Journal of Economic Literature. While by far not every item in RePEc has a JEL code, this again can be a useful starting point. This may require quite a bit of exploration for the newcomer, as one may have to navigate several branches until one finds the right topic. Or there may not be a close fit. For example, the economics of elephants does not have its own code in the JEL classification, it is somewhere in code Q.

Often, if you start with a reference paper, the associated JEL code can help you. On IDEAS, you find it in the “related research” tab. There is none for our elephant paper, but here is an example for another paper (as for all images, clicking on it will show your a larger view):

Another way to browse is to look at the publication profiles of the authors of the studies you have found. Often, at least one author is registered with RePEc and has assembled all their works into their profile. There may be other relevant items there.

References

RePEc tries whenever possible to extract the references in the indexed works and then tries to link those references with the holdings in RePEc. This process is fraught with stumbling blocks, but it worked in our example, as can be seen below. References typically contain the most relevant literature that preceded the work that is considered. These works are likely to be important. And as you browse or follow the references, you will start noticing that the the same works keep appearing. These should most likely be part of your final list.

Citations

As we have references, we can also do links the other way: where has this work been cited? This provides you with the literature that follows the work that is considered. And indeed, our example has been cited elsewhere. You can then explore these works, what references they have and what their authors have also written.

Find other versions

Sometimes, you cannot access a particular work because the publisher requires a subscription. However, there may be a previous version available that is in open access. In such cases, IDEAS will tell you with a red message that you can find a link in the “related works section” as in the example below. The links also work the other way: while looking at an open access version, it allows you to find where it was ultimately published. In some cases, it even allows you to find associated data or computer code.

Keeping current

If you want to continue to follow the literature you are interested in, there are several options available to you. See this blog post to learn about them. One of them it to use MyIDEAS, which can also be useful when you are doing your literature search, as is allows you to save items into folders as you work on IDEAS and then export the bibliographic references in various formats.


Who is the typical RePEc user?

January 17, 2017

This answer is not that easy to answer, as using RePEc services typically does not require any registration. Still, some services use Google Analytics, which provides some elementary statistics about users, but nothing about demographics. Below are some of what we can learn by looking at the Google Analytics for IDEAS for 2016. This may or may not apply to other RePEc services.

First, one can learn a few things from the browser that is used. 53% of users have it set to use US-English, 8% British English, 4% each for Spanish and Chinese, and 3% each for French and German. This language variable, however, does not correlate perfectly with the location. Indeed, only 18% of users are in the United States, the next most frequent countries being the United Kingdom (7%), India (7%), Germany (4%), Italy, France, Canada, China (all 3%), and then with 2% Australia, the Philippines, Kenya, Colombia, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Turkey, Pakistan and Malaysia. This wide distribution is actually quite encouraging, as the goal of RePEc is to democratize the access to research, and getting “non-traditional” countries to adopt RePEc services this well is a good sign. In particular, Africa represents 9% of the traffic, South Asia 10%, Southeast Asia 7% and South America 6%. And yes, there is traffic from North Korea.

What about browsers? Chrome is the clear winner, at 55%. Next come Firefox (14%), Safari (13%), Internet Explorer (8%), Opera Mini (3%) and Edge (2%). In terms of operating systems, Windows is first at 66% (of which 53% is Windows 7, 27% Windows 10, and 13% on Windows 8.1), then 14% on Macintosh, 10% Android, 6% iOS, and 1% Linux. It is clear from this that desktop use is still predominant (81%), while 16% use a mobile phone and only 3% a tablet.

Where is traffic originating? Most of it comes from search engines (76%), while 15% of traffic is referred from another website. 8% of traffic is direct, meaning from bookmarks or by typing the URL in the browser. 1% is coming from social media.


Exploring the pre-publication communication for RePEc users

September 13, 2016

Two months ago, we announced a new free RePEc service that allows RePEc users making a fragmentation/annotation of papers and linking whole papers and/or their fragments by scientific relationships. These new tools are publicly available at sociorepec.org. It can help researchers with their everyday academic work, like discovery, analysis, and writing of new papers.

Using these tools researchers create private or public micro research outputs (annotations, relationships, etc.). If it is public, SocioRePEc can initiate direct scholarly communication between the researchers who used some papers to create micro outputs and the authors of the used papers. Such direct communication takes place while researchers are collecting findings, manipulating and organizing the findings, e.g. as their manuscripts. Thus, researchers have an opportunity to come to scholarly communication before the manuscripts become traditional publications. We call this the pre-publication communication.

Recently we presented our vision of the possible impact of pre-publication communication in a position paper “End of Publication? Open access and a new scholarly communication technology“.

We are looking for partners (organizations or individuals) to explore the pre-publication communication.

We want to find out how useful pre-publication communication is. As the first step, we propose some experiments with SocioRePEc facilities:

1. Competitive selection. The basic pre-publication communication provided by SocioRePEc is public. That means the system allows experiments with creating some elements of competition. Members of the research community can trace the “author”<–>”user” pre-publication communication. Then they compete with the author by offering the user better research results or more efficient solution to her/his research problem.

2. Identification of the “neighbours”. We can think of researchers using research outputs of other researchers as “neighbours” in the global scientific labor division system. Pre-publication communication can help researchers to find out who their neighbours are. This can give the neighbours better collective intelligence. They can interactively adjust and adapt their “supply” and “demand” to get better mutual impact from their direct research cooperation.

3. Exploring challenges. Do researchers appreciate that pre-publication communication is an instrument for identifying problems in and reducing potential issues of the credibility of their work? To shed some light on this question we need some additional qualitative study on how a research culture (formal and informal norms, rules, and motivation) can be developed that can lead researchers to adopt pre-publication scholarly communication.

4. Publication as aggregation. It is also important to find out what could motivate scholars to adopt the idea that the future of research publication is aggregation. Neylon wrote about this: “If we think of publication as the act of bringing a set of things together and providing them with a coherent identity then that publication can be many things with many possible uses” [1]. Possible questions for the experiments are: What kind of forms in general can research outputs usage have in, say, economics? Will researchers agree to share micro research outputs in order to benefit from the pre-publication communication? Under what circumstances could researchers adopt the idea of “publication as aggregation”?

5. Transparency in research. What changes in research practice can initiate global pre-publication scholarly communication between authors and users of research outputs? How can this improve the transparency and credibility of their research findings? Answering these questions will imply some study of, for example, the community of RePEc users. We see them as a pro-active group of scholars open to innovations in the field of global scholarly communication technology.

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[1] Neylon, C. The future of research communication is aggregation, Science in the Open Blog, published: 10 April 2010. Available online:  http://cameronneylon.net/blog/the-future-of-research-communication-is-aggregation/