Massachusetts Institute of Technology

To examine the impacts of online working paper repositories on the diffusion of scholarly ideas

  • Amount $385,328
  • City Cambridge, MA
  • Investigator Erik Brynjolfsson
  • Year 2012
  • Program Technology
  • Sub-program Scholarly Communication

Though working paper repositories have become integral to a number of fields, including high-energy physics and economics, the impact of working paper circulation on the actual practice and production of research is relatively unexplored. For example, does circulation of working papers on digital platforms actually improve the quality of the work, whether in revised drafts or in final published form? How do researchers decide what to spend time reading, given the lack of a referee system? Can usage data from working paper repositories predict ultimate publication in refereed journals and citation counts of articles after formal publication? Funds from this grant support a research project by Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT and his Ph.D. student Heekyung Kim aim to explore these and other questions using the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) as a case study. In order to isolate the impact of the circulation of research in working form, they will draw on SSRN's logs of web server traffic, working paper citation data, and full-text analysis of individual papers to compare the usage and citation of papers posted in bulk by departments as they join SSRN (which are often already published elsewhere) with that of papers that have evolved as working papers on SSRN in advance of publication. SSRN will also perform a randomized experiment of different search algorithms on the live site in order to better understand user discovery and filtering behavior. In addition to this research, grant funds will support a workshop to bring together publishers and platform developers with economists and other social scientists studying scholarly communication to discuss existing research findings and potential future collaborations in this area.

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