RePEc at 21

Sustaining a Large Open Bibliography on a Shoestring

Christian Zimmermann

Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

Open Repositories Conference, Montana State University, June 6, 2018

Context: What is RePEc?

How was RePEc made sustainable?

How can this apply to you and your project?

Context: What is RePEc?

Research Papers in Economics

Mission: enhance the dissemination of research in economics through the democratization of the process for authors and readers


  1. Institutions hold metadata about their papers on their web/ftp servers
  2. RePEc "services" gather that metadata and disseminate it
  3. Main services: EconPapers, IDEAS, NEP
  4. Others: Google Scholar, Microsoft Academic Search, ResearchGate, Econlit, EBSCO/ProQuest, OpenAIRE, Altmetric, etc.
  5. "Enhancements:" Author registation, citation analysis, ReplicationWiki, linking pre-print and article, and more (often crowd-sourced)

What do we have?

  1. Created in 1997, precursor in 1992
  2. 2000 participating archives
  3. 53,000 registered authors
  4. 2.6M listed items, including over 3000 journals and 4600 preprint series
  5. Over 100M measured downloads
  6. RePEc data used for scholarly research

What about ressources?

  1. Small initial grants
  2. Funders not interested in maintenance
  3. Sponsored hosting
  4. Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers

How was RePEc made sustainable?

  1. Script as much as possible, including monitoring
  2. Decentralize: Many people doing little jobs
  3. Motivate or recognize volunteers
  4. Have a core set of true believers
  5. Renew that core
  6. Provide additional value: citation analysis, link preprints and published articles, make metadata available for research
  7. Play on the academic ego: rankings
  8. Focus on what costs little: motivate volunteers

How can this apply to you and your project?

  1. Does my funding carry my project for the future?
  2. Are the costs of my project front-loaded?
  3. What will my project look like once funding runs out?
  4. What is the interest in volunteering for/sponsoring my project? What about its maintenance?
  5. Is my team going to stay on?
  6. What if I leave? Can it work without leadership?
If you do not have good answers to all these questions, rethink your project.