Volunteer recognition: Thomas Krichel

February 21, 2008

Thomas Krichel is not just a RePEc volunteer, he is RePEc. In 1991, as an research assistant at the Economic Department of Loughborough University, he saw the potential that the Internet gave for the dissemination of research in Economics, but could not manage to get a hold on good data about new working papers. In February 1993, on a lectureship at the University of Surrey, he was more lucky and teamed with Féthy Mili, Economics librarian at the Université de Montréal, who contributed data on 250 series, and Hans Amman (University of Amsterdam), who let Thomas use his coryfee mailing list. Bob Parks soon joined with his Economics Working Paper Archive at Washington University. Thus the NetEc project was launched. It moved to a gopher server at the Manchester Computing Centre in 1993, and then to the web. That year, Thomas also got help in collecting data from José Manuel Barrueco Cruz, Economics librarian at the University of Valencia. But soon they realized that there was too much information out on the Internet for just the two of them to collect.

This is when Thomas suggested the creation of RePEc which would completely decentralize the data input: the publishers, who benefit the most from having their papers listed on web indexes, were to index the works themselves. With the collaboration of Sune Karlsson (SWoPEc, Stockholm School of Economics), Bob Parks and Corry Stuyts (DEGREE, Netherlands), José and Thomas then launched RePEc in June 1997. It still works under the same principles, with great success.

Thomas is still the heart and soul of RePEc. He has his hand in almost every project that is undertaken. After completing his Economics PhD at the University of Surrey, he moved to Long Island University to take a position of assistant professor in … Library Studies. Now tenured, he is an eminence grise in the online provision of bibliographic data and is pushing the RePEc concept into other fields. Within RePEc, most of his attention is currently directed towards NEP, the email notification service on new working papers.

Thanksgiving to Volunteers: Ivan Kurmanov

November 21, 2007

Ivan KurmanovAs the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving, it is time to celebrate our volunteers. With this post, we hope to start a regular feature that highlights the work that our volunteers do, sometimes unseen from the general public. RePEc is all built on volunteer effort, and we hope this feature will help these crucial people to get the recognition they deserve.

Today, we want to recognize Ivan Kurmanov, who has just left the RePEc team after being on board for over 10 years. As a undergraduate Economics major at the Belarussian State University in 1996, he noticed the work being led by Thomas Krichel at the now defunct NetEc, the precursor of RePEc. Thinking it was a great initiative, he volunteered to help out. Thomas quickly found something to get him busy: Writing ReDIF-perl, a perl module that validates the data contributed to RePEc by the participating archives and then massages the data for uses by RePEc services. ReDIF-perl has proven to be tremendously useful. Then, Ivan tackled the RePEc Author Service (then called HoPEc) that needed a lot of work, especially to iron out various bugs and performance issues. This was no easy task, as HoPEc was programmed in C++, while all other components of RePEc run with perl. Eventually, it became clear that a complete code rewrite became necessary.

Thomas managed to find a grant from the Open Society Institute to provide an open source author registration system, and Ivan started working full time on it. This is how the current RePEc Author Service was created, based on ACIS, which is now open source under a GPL license. ACIS performs quite complicated tasks, like pattern matching of names, which may include accents and other marks, or citation analysis with surprising efficiency. Another remarkable aspect of this project is that it is extremely well documented, unlike many other RePEc projects, unfortunately.

While technically Ivan was paid for part of his time with RePEc, we should still consider him a volunteer given all the tremendous work he has performed that went well beyond what would have been expected from the little money the grant provided. Also, he had to cope with often shaky Internet connections in Belarus. Ivan now works full time as a programmer, and we hope he will still listen in on RePEc and give his advice, and occasional fixes. Of course he leaves a void, and while Thomas Krichel is currently providing interim coverage, we are looking for a new volunteer to maintain and expand the code behind ACIS and the RePEc Author Service.

Seeking Volunteers

November 3, 2007

The RePEc project is entirely supported by volunteer effort. Indeed, no one is paid in any way for working on RePEc, in fact RePEc does not even have a budget. A core team is heavily involved, on spare time, and many others participate in smaller, but nonetheless important ways. We are always interested in renewing the blood in the team, so if you wish to help out and provide useful services to the profession, join the team in whatever capacity you can provide. Several of the tasks require familiarity with programming (in particular perl) and with Linux systems, but not all tasks. And like for everyone else on the team, this can be learned on the spot.

Watch this space as we announce calls for volunteers for specific projects. More generally, we are interested in anybody who could help provide some redundancy. Indeed, many projects rely currently on one person, and if this person were not able to help anymore, we would have to scramble. Thus, if you are particularly interested in one or the other aspect of RePEc, why not get involved?

We also want to start a few projects and are looking for people to help out there. Again, watch this space for announcements. Or make your availability known either in the comment section or through repec@repec.org.