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WoPEc: Working Papers in Economics

Project web site

Programme area

Contact details
Thomas Krichel,
Department of Economics University of Surrey Guildford GU2 5XH
Phone: 01483 300800 ext 2785 Fax: 01483 303775

Thomas J.A. Crawshaw,
The Library University of Surrey Guildford GU2 5XH
Phone: 01483 300800 ext 9231 Fax: 01483 259500
Email: Julia Chruszcz,
Manchester Computing Centre University of Manchester Oxford Road Manchester M13 9PL
Phone: 0161 275 6054 Fax: 0161 275 6040

Project description

as of 24th July 1996


The WoPEc project is an application of Internet protocols to the management of a database of metadata of grey literature, demonstrated in the subject area of Economics. Rather than collecting electronic documents representing recent research results in a central store, the project brings together information on publications from various servers. Users access the database and search for documents that they wish to consult. They can then retrieve the document from the server where it is stored using standard Internet retrieval protocols.

The subject area of Economics is particularly relevant to such a project. Economics has a lively preprint culture of working papers. The growing publication lag in the discipline (2 to 3 years) has meant that researchers are increasingly interested in working papers to base their work on the latest results available to others. However, printing, sending out and collecting working papers has been slow and costly. Current awareness of working papers has been handicapped by the lack of a universally accepted collector of metadata, with individual departments unable to afford to catalogue what they receive. As a result, many papers are read by a small circle of insiders only. In the United Kingdom research is suffering from inadequate access to recent research done elsewhere (in particular the US) and a lack of promotion of ideas generated in the UK to the outside world.

Recently some departments have become aware of web technology to provide a more timely and cost-effective distribution of working papers. By April 1996, there were about 2500 papers cluttered around various servers in the world, with little effort by individual publishers to properly encode the metadata of their collections. But a prototype of WoPEc is running at Manchester Computing Centre ( and Washington University of St. Louis (; is increasingly seen as leading the way to overcome metadata distribution.


The project's prime aim is to assist UK Economics departments and research centres in the electronic publishing of recent research results. Depending on the wish of individual departments, it will either collect electronic representations of research papers in the Adobe Portable Document Format on a central site or provide metadata about publications on other UK departmental sites. In order to increase the usage of the server, it will also list information about top-quality research from outside the UK.

Metadata from various servers is collected in a common cataloguing format. This format is very close to the one used by the ROADS project and its affiliated metadata collectors. WoPEc contributes to this effort by investigating the application of the format to low-granularity description of Internet accessible research reports. The search engine will be a whois++ implementation with a WWW front end. The use of the ROADS software for this purpose will be investigated.

Key dates and deliverables

Within 6 months of the project start date a whois++ search engine with web front end will be operating at the Manchester site on a database of several thousand working papers. Complete user and provider documentation will be made available on-line and distributed in print to UK departments. After that period we will be intensifying the collection of material from within the UK. We will offer a scanning service to allow departments an initial low-cost, low-effort access, but it is hoped that most departments will be making electronic files available with our help.

Whilst concentrating on augmenting the input from UK Economics departments we hope to export the experience learnt to UK academics and librarians concerned with other disciplines. Within 18 months we will publish all scripts needed to replicate the service on other machines and other disciplines. This effort will be intensified after month 18 of the project, when a report will be published and meetings will be held with interested parties. Electronic peer review and quality assurance aspects will also be investigated.

Partner details

The project is led by the Department of Economics at the University of Surrey. It is supported by the library of the University of Surrey. Manchester Computing provide the computing for the main site.

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