Boston College Libraries Faculty Newsletter


FALL 2009

RePEc: Research Papers in Economics

Research Papers in Economics (RePEc), is the largest database of bibliographic information related to economics and related disciplines. It is a volunteer-based collaboration of economists and librarians who have formed a 'virtual database' containing information on scholarly literature in economics. RePEc was established in 1997 by Thomas Krichel, now a faculty member at Long Island University, as an outgrowth of the NetEc project. That project was a consortium of Internet projects for academic economists. One of those projects, the WoPEc (Working Papers in Economics) service, received support from the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC) of the UK Higher Education Funding Councils, and is the ancestor of today's RePEc database.


CopyrightRePEc is a 'virtual database' in the sense that it is a decentralized network of over 1,000 linked bibliographic archives housed in 68 countries and maintained by their providers. Most of these archives contain bibliographic information, or metadata, describing the providers' working papers, discussion papers, preprints or scholarly journals. In September 2009, RePEc documents over 2,600 working paper series containing over 300,000 titles, of which over 80% are downloadable (while some require paid subscription). A number of archives exclusively contain metadata describing journal articles, many of which are maintained by their respective publishers (in other cases, the publishers provide machine-readable SGML or XML to RePEc volunteers). The RePEc database contains information on almost all academic journals in the field of economics as well as many titles in finance, management, statistics and related disciplines. At this writing over 1,000 journal titles are included, with over 470,000 articles documented in RePEc.


The RePEc database also contains bibliographic information on books (120 series, over 5,500 titles), book chapters (58 series, over 12,500 chapters), and software components (24 series, over 1,800 components). These metadata are linked to a database of economics institutions (EDIRC, maintained by Christian Zimmermann) listing over 11,300 institutions. Authors of materials in the RePEc database are encouraged to register in the RePEc Author Service, which allows linking of their listings to authored materials and supports citation analysis. Over 21,000 individuals, a sizable majority of the profession in many countries, have voluntarily registered.


The RePEc database is freely accessible, and its contents may be displayed by several custom software systems known as RePEc services. In this context, there is no single entry point nor 'front-end' for the database. Different RePEc services provide the material in different formats, with varying value-added components such as search engines. The leading RePEc services accessed by the general public are IDEAS, maintained by Christian Zimmermann at the University of Connecticut, and EconPapers maintained by Sune Karlsson at Örebro University, Sweden. As many authors may not be affiliated with a participating institution, the Munich Personal RePEc Archive (MPRA) was established by the Munich University Library to provide unaffiliated authors with the ability to add their materials to RePEc. At this writing, MPRA contains over 9,100 downloadable papers.


In keeping with its decentralized nature, the RePEc database itself does not contain full texts. Its metadata may contain URLs that provide access to downloadable full texts of working papers, journal articles and software components. As links to journal articles (and some working papers) may require subscription or payment, RePEc services provide information on alternate forms of a published article (for instance, working papers freely accessible from their authors' institutions) where those can be identified.


Freely accessible full text documents are processed by RePEc's CitEc service, managed by José Manuel Barrueco of the University of Valencia. This service extracts citations and attempts to link them to items in the RePEc database. This allows RePEc services to both display the included references and citations to a document, and perform citation analysis for working paper series, journal titles and individual authors.


Another RePEc service, New Economics Papers provides a current awareness service for several dozen fields in economics and related disciplines. Patrons may freely subscribe to any of the field reports, which are produced by an international team of editors who evaluate working papers added to the RePEc database. Over 25,000 individuals have subscribed to one or more NEP reports.


Several features of RePEc distinguish it from other bibliographic information sources in economics and other disciplines. First, it encompasses a broader array of works in the field. Given substantial publication lags, a researcher cannot depend wholly on published articles, as the state of research in economics and related disciplines is reflected in current working papers rather than published articles and monographs. Second, inclusion of materials in RePEc and access to RePEc services is free to all. The cost for an institution to participate and list their publications in RePEc is the cost of their staff's time in preparing and maintaining metadata, stored on their own webserver. Third, RePEc operates with no formal funding, only receiving contributions in kind from the various universities which provide RePEc team members with computer hardware and internet access.


Boston College is one of the founding members of the RePEc effort, and contributes significant technological support. The Economics Department's archive, boc, was the eighth archive to be established in the RePEc system. The archive contains documentation on the BC Economics Working Paper series (almost 500 papers), the BC Statistical Software Components archive (over 1,300 items) and the proceedings of Stata Users Group meetings. Its maintainer, Assoc. Prof. Christopher Baum, is responsible for the processing of several publishers' metadata and its maintenance in the RePEc database. Baum also handles initial contacts with institutions and publishers seeking to include their bibliographic information in RePEc.


Kit BaumChristopher F. Baum

Economics Department


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