Tuesday, June 15, 2010

How I Keep Up To Date on the Scientific Literature

I suppose that most academic's reading can be divided into two categories: Specific reading for projects you are working on; general background reading. Most people probably don't have enough time for the latter so it is important to maximize the value you get from the time applied. After finding a very useful paper yesterday, though I was disappointed to find that I had been "scooped" to some degree on one of the projects I'm working on, I thought I could make lemonade from lemons by writing about how I find such papers. Once upon a time I subscribed to the a bunch of hardcopy journals from different academic societies. The only one I am getting currently though is AJARE as part of my membership in AARES. So this is what I do currently (This may or may not work for you of course):

1. Subscribe to NEP: (New Economics Papers). Here you can get abstracts of all new working papers added to RePEc in the fields you are interested in sent to you regularly.

2. Citations: This won't be very useful for new scholars of course... but regularly check citations to your work. It's likely that papers of interest to you will cite your papers. I admit that I check new citations to my work weekly in Web of Science and Scopus. I have now added Google Scholar on an annual rotation. The trouble with Google Scholar is that there is no way to limit citations to the most recent week or month or anything in fact. The paper mentioned above came up in the Google Scholar search.

3. Journal RSS feeds: Many journals allow you to subscribe to the table of contents via RSS. Elsevier/Science Direct seems to send papers as they become "in press" online.

4. Blogs/news sources: I subscribe to quite a few blogs using Google Reader. Some of these are in the general climate science area. I also read science news online in sources like the New York Times. I can follow up on interesting stories in the relevant journals. Of course, you could subscribe to Science and Nature by RSS instead...

5. Conferences and seminars: We all know this one. But everywhere I've been it seems a struggle to get grad students to come to seminars that are not in their exact specialised area of research.


  1. Does Environmental Economics require computational programming for modelling or does it only involve Applied Econometrics ? I am asking this question because I am a programmer as well as an applied econometrician and I want explore oppurtunities in Environmental Economics.

  2. What kind of programming/modelling are you thinking of? There isn't neccessarily much difference between different fields in economics in the techniques that can potentially be used except for the macro/micro split. For example, there is plenty of use for CGE models in environmental economics.

  3. I meant programming routines that are not available in standard statistical packages such as STATA or EVIEWS. For example, in productivity and efficiency analysis if log of output is non-linear in parameters of technology, then one has to write their own code in order maximize likelihood function. Also when the likelihood function is log-concave it might help to perform estimation in Bayesian framework. And in Bayesian framework, one has to write code to simulate full conditional posterior densities.

  4. I write my own code for econometrics in RATS all the time. In other words I combine some of the built in packaged instructions with code for doing things that are not built in.

    I presume you can do the same in STATA. Or in whatever programming environment you prefer. So if that is what you mean then certainly I don't see a difference between environmental economics and other fields in economics.

  5. OK. Then, Environmental Economics is applied Economics and/or Econometrics. Consequently, I am surprised, why many Economics department across the world do not have Faculty researching Environmental Economics.

  6. 20 years ago there was little environmental economics going on anywhere. That includes the economics departments at all three universities where I got my degrees (Hebrew U., LSE, Boston U.). So there are plenty of places that haven't caught up to the trend to more environmental econ. But there are also plenty of other fields that aren't represented everywhere. So it's not so strange.

    In your first post you defined "applied econometrics" as not writing your own code. I think that is wrong. Theoretical econometrics is developing new methods. Applied econometrics is using them. But often you'll need to write special code to do that.

  7. I am a PhD candidate at University of Queensland. In UQ most(around 70%) academics and PhD students who do applied econometrics do not write their own code and use standard packages such as EVIEWS or STATA. I guess I was wrong in extrapolating my observations (about applied-econometricians) to the rest of the world.