Christian Seiler and Klaus Wohlrabe of the Ifo Institute for Economic Research, Munich, recently published a very interesting article in CESifo Forum: "RePEc – An Independent Platform for Measuring Output in Economics". They consider the much debated subject of academic rankings -- of authors, departments, universities -- and stress the importance that the Economics repository RePEc can have in determining the rankings (and potentially the evaluation) of authors, institutions and journals.
The RePEc network (Research Papers in Economics, ) is a bibliographic service for economic research and its adjunct fields such as statistics. The goal of this network consists in constructing as complete a collection as possible of all research results that have been published in some form. Also, by using this information, various evaluations or rankings can be produced. An important difference from many other ranking methods is that RePEc is based on the ‘wiki’ principle and the relevant information is not compiled by an individual author or institution. This principle applies both to authors as well as publishers, which to some extent are dependent on each other. On the one hand, publishers must make available the meta-information of their publications (journal articles, books, book contributions, working papers) such as author names, titles, editions, number of pages or citations. On the other hand, scholars must register themselves at RePEc and classify their works. This enables a clear allocation to the authors. With the help of the information available in the network, rankings can be computed for authors and institutions. A potential disadvantage, however, is that some information (e.g. particular journals or citations) may not have been made available to the network or, because of the concentration on economic research, publications from other disciplines may not be included. For the research community there is thus a strong incentive to make as much information as possible available in order to fully exhaust the network effect.