RePEc rankings for economists to add new criterion: forecasting prowess

April 1, 2021

RePEc has been providing for many years rankings of economists. These are based on a set of criteria that follows how economists like to rate themselves: where they publish, how they are cited, and how much they are read. But this is not how the rest of the universe evaluates economists. They are supposed to forecast well the path of the economy.

This is exactly what the RePEc rankings will be considering as well. How well can the ranked economists forecast key economic variables? What is their track record in prognostication? For this purpose, RePEc will be leveraging FREDcast, a forecasting game conveniently managed at the St Louis Fed that allows users to forecast every month four key variables for the US economy: inflation, unemployment, GDP, and employment. Scores are computed based on actual data releases following a formula that takes into account forecast errors across the four economic variables weighted by forecasting difficulty. Over time, monthly scores are aggregated using a discount rate. The all-time score is the one that will be used.

For their FREDcast points to be recognized in the RePEc rankings, all economists need to do is to use for their FREDcast account the same email address they used for registering in the RePEc Author Service. FREDcast is available on the web as well as with Android or iOS apps.

Note that in a second phase, forecasting accuracy will also be used for ranking economic institutions. Here the decision is still pending on whether RePEc will aggregate the scores of each institution’s members, or whether each institution with become part of a league within FREDcast, to leverage the “battle league” functionality of FREDcast.


Institutional metadata in RePEc: the EDIRC project

March 30, 2021

RePEc disseminates metadata about publications in economics as well as about their authors. This data is then leveraged by various so-called RePEc services that make that data available to the public in various forms. Any element in this data has a unique and permanent identifier, the RePEc handle, that allows to link an article to its journal and authors, for example, as well as to its citations. Each have a handle.

EDIRC is a project started in 1995 that catalogs institutions that primarily employ economists: these are mostly academic departments, but also includes think tanks, policy institutions (central banks, ministries, regulators), international organization, and research centers. A listing of economics associations and societies is also provided. Each of those entities is assigned a RePEc handle and this handle can thus be used in RePEc to associate items to these institutions. These handles always start with RePEc:edi:, followed by seven letter or digits, the last two reserved for the country.

The major user of this data is the RePEc Author Service, which leverages it to assign affiliations to the registered authors. The author metadata then includes the handles of the relevant institutions, which the RePEc services then can use to display author profiles. The RePEc Genealogy does the same to identify where economists received their terminal degree from. RePEc archives, the providers of the bibliographic data in RePEc, can also include institutional handles in the data about their series and journals.

There may be still other uses of this data, such as using the institutional data for ranking purposes. But the ones described above feed back to EDIRC. Indeed, institutional entries on EDIRC may show a listing of their members registered with the author service, their alumni shown in the genealogy, and the publications indexed in RePEc. All in all, close to 15,000 institutions are indexed in EDIRC, with well over half having some metadata from another RePEc service.


RePEc in February 2021

March 6, 2021

We had an excellent month in terms of traffic, with 536,984 file downloads and 3,066,371 abstract views in this short month. We also welcomed International Research Association for Sustainable Development, xKDR, and the Italian Finance Ministry as new RePEc archives. As a new feature, IDEAS introduced a “most related” tab on many abstract pages. And we reached the following milestones:

250,000,000 abstract views for working papers
100,000 indexed book chapters.
200 topics listed on RePEc Biblio


How to get your work listed on RePEc

March 4, 2021

RePEc has grown to a huge bibliographic database of Economics, now with over 3.4 million works listed. How has all this been indexed. More importantly, how can you get your research output listed on the popular RePEc sites and dissemination services? There are fundamentally two ways: through your institution or individually.

The institutional way

Any institution or publisher (academic, policy org., think tank, commercial, etc.) can open a so-called RePEc archive that contains information about their publications and links to where they can be found. This is in the form of plain text files that are hosted on the institution’s public site (ftp, http or https) and are regularly queried by RePEc services. These files need to follow a specific structure and syntax to be machine-readable. There are currently over 2000 such archives, and they all followed the same instructions. Note that there are some aggregators that follow different rules but forward their data to RePEc: S-WoPEc and S-WoBA in Scandinavia, Dotec in Colombia, EconStor in Germany, HAL in France, Cyberleninka in Russia, and AgEcon Search for Agricultural Economics.

We have a few RePEc archives that lie dormant, usually because the person in charge left without providing instructions. If this is the case for yours, there is help. Start with these instructions.

Note also that if you expect your work to be listed in an existing archive, but it is not, EconPapers and IDEAS list a technical contact for the particular series or journal who should be able to take care of corrections.

The individual way

The vast majority (97.8%) of the RePEc material is indexed by institutions. But for the economists working at a place that does not participate, there are several options that all require that you upload your paper. There is typically also a cursory editorial review conducted by each service, checking that the input data is correct, that the work is indeed academic and within topic, and that they is no copyright issues. Note that the uploaded work does not necessarily need to be recent. It can complement an article that is under fee-gated access or not indexed in RePEc at all. Note also that what you upload will always be considered as a working paper. Only the journal publisher can index articles in RePEc.

Here are services that accept uploads and will index in RePEc if appropriate. They are listed in the order of the number of indexed papers.

  1. Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA), sponsored by the Library of the University of Munich (Germany). If your paper is not in English, French or German, this is your only option.
  2. HAL caters to French researchers. Economics content is relayed to RePEc
  3. ArXiv has sections for a few economic fields. Attention should be paid to the submission process.
  4. The Open Science Foundation has a pre-print services and several topical archives (in particular SocArXiv). Works within economics are indexed in RePEc.
  5. EconStor, sponsored by the German Library for Economics (ZBW) accepts also papers in German.

RePEc in January 2021

February 11, 2021

2021 is off to a good start. In January, we welcomed the following new RePEc archives: Universidad Anáhuac México, Centre de Sciences Humaines (Delhi), Russian Research Institute of Economics, Politics and Law in Science and Technology, Review of Socio-Economic Perspectives, Shiv Nadar University, IEPS Brasil, Adani Institute of Infrastructure Management. We counted 559,683 file downloads and 3,121,954 abstract views. We reached no significant milestone, though.


How to find related material on RePEc

February 4, 2021

Suppose that you found a great paper. You want to learn more about this topic. How do you go about finding the right works? This post is to give you the right tools of that. First on IDEAS, then on EconPapers.

IDEAS example

Example abstract page from the IDEAS website.

IDEAS abstract pages have a lot of useful information. Not all pages have the same kind of information, it all depends on what was supplied by the publishers, authors, or RePEc services like CitEc, the citation extraction projects. Here we want to use the example above, which is close to the ideal.

IDEAS pages all have tables that allow to show different facets of the information. In the picture above, the “Author and abstract” tab is open. This can already help in finding more about this topic. Indeed, both authors are registered with RePEc, thus they have public profiles that show all their works indexed in RePEc. You may find something of interest there.

The next tab of interest the “References” and “Citations” tabs. The numbers next to each indicate the number of research works listed in each tab. The paper that got you interested is citing some other works that are also found in RePEc, and IDEAS helps you find them. Other works cited your paper, and you can discover them here. That should give you quite a bit of material to pour over.

In some cases, that may be much work, like in this case that was cited a lot. The next tab, “Most related“, is here to help you. This shows the works that were most frequently cited jointly with the item you are starting with. The list is limited to the top 20, hence the moniker “most related.”

The “related works & more” tab highlights some other ways to find related works, such as links to works having the same JEL codes or searches over the same keywords. Some other links may also appear in this tab.

EconPapers offers much of the same information, but on a single pages in a more condensed form through links to authors profiles, citations and references.


RePEc in December 2020 and a look back at 2020

January 6, 2021

We finished the year by adding a simple new tool that allows to select an economists according to several criteria, for example to find a seminar speaker. We counted 540,369 file downloads and 3,223,421 abstract views and welcomed the following new RePEc archives: Malopolska School of Economics, Russian Foreign Trade Academy, George Mason University.

Now regarding the year as a whole, 2020 was despite the circumstances a very satisfactory year. We counted the most abstract views ever over the span of a year, we surpassed 1 million indexed working papers, our citation analysis project made great strides, we added about 375,000 works to the index, about 3,500 authors registered, and 62 new RePEc archives started indexed their material. CollEc, the co-author network project, got a complete overhaul.

We are very encouraged by this increase in traffic. Over several year years, we have seen a decrease in traffic to the RePEc sites that report these numbers. Note that there has been also an increasing number of other sites that leverage RePEc data, but do not report such numbers. This made it difficult to evaluate how well we are doing overall. The new record *measured* traffic is a very positive signal.

Of course, this was also a special year because of the pandemic. This gave rise to a flood of papers about Covid-19, about 9000 to date in RePEc. The circumstances also called for the creation of an Economics Virtual Seminar Calendar that disseminated over 750 seminars.


RePEc now helps you find a seminar speaker

December 31, 2020

RePEc inaugurates just in time for New Year’s resolutions a new tool that allows to find seminar speakers. Current criteria are 1) field of research, 2) location, 3) gender, 4) seniority. This tool should help seminar organizers identify speakers that they may not have thought of. The same tool could also be used to identify peer reviewers, organize workshops, or find co-authors.

We are open to suggestions on how to improve this tool. It relies on information contained in RePEc, foremost the fact that an author is registered with the RePEc Author Service (and has current affiliation or publication information).

Note that seminar organizers (and speakers) can disseminate their virtual events through the Economics Virtual Seminar Calendar, which is available as web pages or through weekly email alerts with MyIDEAS. In 2020, over 750 seminars were announced that way.


RePEc in November 2020

December 6, 2020

The news of the month is the launch of a completely revamped CollEc site and application, thanks to the efforts of Christian Düben. We counted 619,269 file downloads and 3,311,625 abstract views in November 2020. We welcomed a few new archives: Duisburg-Essen University, Conselho das Finanças Públicas, Indian Statistical Institute, Bucharest University of Economic Studies, National Bank of Kazakhstan, Bengaluru Dr. B.R.Ambedkar School of Economics. Finally, the milestones we reached:
80,000,000 cumulative downloads through IDEAS
50,000,000 cumulative articles downloads through reporting services
25,000,000 cumulative downloads through EconPapers
12,000 students listed on RePEc Genealogy.


The new CollEc: An interactive exploration of the economic literature’s co-authorship network

November 26, 2020

This blog post was written by Christian Düben.

The economic literature is a field comprised of tens of thousands of authors. The American Economic Association alone has more than 20,000 members. In September, the RePEc Author Service passed 60,000 registered users with published research. Around 48,000 of them published at least one co-authored paper with another registered user.

Co-authored research has been on the rise over the past decades forming collaborations over enormous geographic distances and many fields of research. It is a network that interconnects the vast majority of published economists around the world. While many researchers are aware of collaborations between their close colleagues and prominent figures in their field, it is a challenge to even have a rough idea of what the overall network looks like.

When Thomas Krichel released the CollEc RePEc service in 2011, the co-authorship network’s structure became accessible. With a few clicks users can evaluate which authors form the center of the discipline and who holds a more peripheral position. Each listed person is assigned a centrality value computed using methods from the field of graph theory.

Now in 2020, CollEc enters a new chapter of its existence. After years of maintaining the project and providing intriguing insights into the economic literature’s co-authorship network, Thomas Krichel transferred the RePEc service to me. I used the opportunity to come up with a completely new implementation, re-writing CollEc from scratch. The former network analysis written in Perl took the server hours at full capacity. Migrating it to C and C++ code wrapped in R functions boosted efficiency, cutting the required time and resources to a small fraction of what the previous implementation required, and facilitating extensions to the analysis.

I added weighted edges, bilateral distances, and other results going beyond the centrality measures. The interface through which users view the data changed from a static website to a web applications. Web applications are more complex and give me the necessary flexibility to fundamentally redefine how the data is presented. The new CollEc is highly interactive and puts results through combinations of plots and text into perspective. When a user inquires the distance between two authors, CollEc generates a figure comparing that bilateral distance to the distribution of distances to all other authors in the network. The following plot is the result of requesting the distance between Christian Düben and Thomas Krichel with edges weighted by an inverse transition function. The concept of transition functions and the interpretation of the plot are outlined in the application.

With CollEc’s functionalities you can explore who someone’s co-authors are, how far two people are apart in the network, what the shortest path between them looks like, how centrally located a researcher is etc. All of the resulting plots are accompanied by a short text stating further information, e.g. on the network size. The web application evolves around the same approach as GraphEc, another recently developed but not yet publicly available RePEc service, does. It is an interactive tool focused on easily interpretable graphical output presenting results and facilitating comparisons.

Over the course of the past months, Thomas Krichel and Christian Zimmermann repeatedly reviewed the new CollEc and requested extensions and modifications. Thomas allowed me to host and test the application on his technical infrastructure from an early stage and did not withdraw his permission when I accidentally took his web server offline. Thanks to their great support, the application gradually improved and is now publicly available. To get started simply visit http://app.collec.repec.org and watch the tutorial or read the documentation. Either of the two options provides a brief, intuitive introduction into the basics of graph theory and the interpretation of CollEc’s results. Read the documentation on entry points, if you would like to generate a link to a certain output. Before you brag about your network centrality on Twitter, it should be noted, though, that author centrality is not a proxy for author quality. Successful authors can be central or remote. Consult the IDEAS website for a citation-based performance analysis of authors, journals, working paper series etc.

If you would like to contribute to CollEc, ask your colleagues to register with the RePEc Author Service. CollEc’s network only entails authors listed in the RePEc Author Service’s data base. The vast majority of published economists is already registered. But some people are still missing. Fill the gaps in the network and ensure the reliability of CollEc’s results by promoting registration with the RePEc Author Service.

You can also decide to support RePEc more generally. IDEAS lists some volunteering options. RePEc is a non-commercial initiative run by volunteers providing openly accessible services. Small contributions like adding RePEc Genealogy entries already help in maintaining and improving this public good. I am a junior researcher who is going to be on the job market next year. Like the rest of my peers, I am under a lot of pressure to produce high quality research. Nonetheless, I do not regret having spent months on developing CollEc. Open science initiatives like RePEc are important contributors to an equitable research environment.