We are finally waking up from the Summer slumber. We have high expectations for the near future while relatively little happened lately on RePEc. We got four new participating archives: Scientific Publishing Institute, Joint Research Centre (Ispra), University of Ibadan, CAF Development Bank of Latin America. We counted 408,853 file downloads and 1,468,524 abstract views. We hope to report more next month.
As usual, July is a calm month. We have to report a new web page detailing the representation of women in economics in various ways. We added only two new archives: Exeley and Step Academic. And we counted 401,303 file downloads and 1,537,997 abstract views. As for milestones, we have more to report:
1,500,000 listed journal articles
1,000,000 listed journal articles with abstracts
12,500 economists listed in the RePEc Genealogy
When you browse through the various RePEc sites, you may come across some strange words or names, like GonzÃ¡lez, suÂ¢ cient or MÃ¶ller. Why do those appear? To get to the bottom of this, one has to first understand how the RePEc sites get their content. All of it comes directly from publishers, about 2000 of them, who make all the relevant information available on their respective sites. To do so, they followed instructions and put files with a particular layout on their ftp or web sites.
These files are supposed to be simple text files, not formatted like they would be with Microsoft Word or LibreOffice. That should make them easy to handle with automated scripts. Unfortunately, this ignores the pesky issue of character encoding. Every operating system or software assumes that a particular character encoding is the standard, which is fine until a file moves from one computer to another. Early on, the files used in RePEc were assumed to be encoded as ISO-LATIN-1 or Windows-1252 by default. Back in 1997, UTF-8 (“Unicode”) was rare. Yet, there is till the option to force RePEc scripts to assume UTF-8 by adding at the start of the file a byte-order mark (“BOM”), which signals that the file has a non-standard encoding.
Now UTF-8 has become much more prevalent, and publishers sometimes put UTF-8 encoded data in files without the BOM, especially for files created by scripts. RePEc then interprets the data as ISO-LATIN-1 or Windows-1252, and the output can then look strange for any character that is outside the restricted ASCII set (simple letters and numbers). For example, any accented characters like é, ñ, ç, and ü will look odd if wrongly encoded. The same applies to ligatures like æ, ﬃ, and ß, non-Western alphabets, and some punctuation used in Microsoft Word.
As a RePEc publisher, how can you fix your poorly encoded UTF-8 data? There are two solutions. Either add the BOM at the start of the data, or use the new .redif extension which assumes UTF-8. But if you convert from .rdf to .redif, make sure to delete the old .rdf file(s), or your records will come up as duplicated and thus become invalid. And remember: no HTML encoding in your files.
There are a few novelties on RePEc this month. Three new NEP reports: NEP-BIG (Big Data), NEP-DES (Economic Design) and NEP-FLE (Financial Literacy and Education). A new ranking for institutions: Student records measured on the publications from the last 10 years. We have also a few new participating archives: University of Calgary (II), GRAPE, Centre for Economic History Research, National Association of Forensic Economics, D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics, Tripal Publishing House, DOBA Faculty. We counted 443,596 file downloads and 1,596,970 abstract views in June 2017.
As for the milestones we reached:
40,000,000 cumulative article downloads
6,000,000 cumulative downloads through NEP
12,000 people listed in the RePEc Genealogy
The past month was a big one for RePEc. First, the initiative celebrated its 20th birthday, still going strong despite its minimal funding. For more about this major milestone, see this blog post. We also reached two other major milestones: 50,000 registered authors and 8,000 listed serials.
In other news, following last month’s vote, there are a few changes to rankings. The Euclidian citation score has been added to author and institution rankings. It is also computed for serials. And aggregate scores now drop the top and bottom two scores, instead of one of each.
We also welcomed a good bunch of new participating archives: Nazarbayev University, University of Florida, Sociedade Brasileira de Econometria, Institute of Management Sciences Peshawar, DergiPark, Meisei University, Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics, Alphanumeric Journal, Noble Academic Publisher, Comenius University of Bratislava. We counted 531,041 file downloads and 1,999,763 abstract views. This bring us to the milestones we reached in the past month:
3,000,000 abstract views on Socionet
60,000 NEP reports
50,000 registered authors
8,000 listed serials
20 years RePEc
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.
What is new this month? The IDEAS search engine now allows to sort results by citation counts. We have proposals up for a vote to do some changes to the rankings. We welcome a new crop of RePEc archives: World Economic Research Institute, Scientia Moralitas, Université de Corse, Online Science Publishing, Johannes Kelper Universität Linz (II). And we counted 514,315 file downloads and 1,889,094 abstract views. Finally, here are the milestones we reached last month:
10,000,000 matched citations
1,200,000 book chapter downloads
333,333 papers disseminated through NEP
3,000 contributors to the RePEc Genealogy wiki
Watch this space in a few days for significant news.