As 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.