Lutz Hendricks - UNC - Department of Economics

Thoughts on How Economists Can Avoid Reinventing the Wheel

The Problem

In writing research papers, economists solve the same problems over and over again.

Code Examples

Data Examples

The list is endless.

The Solution

Consider what other disciplines do.

People who work on numerical math have access to a set of trusted code libraries (BLAS, NLopt, …).

There is a mechanism through which users can contribute to code (github) or discuss it (e.g., stackexchange).

Consider the development of the Julia language.

The result: Much of the time when users ask questions on how to solve a problem in Julia, someone will simply point to an existing library.

Economics needs a similar setup for code and for data.

Instead of creating the same variables over and over again from each of the major datasets, there should be a place where the construction of such variables can be discussed and where code for constructing variables can be posted (and trusted).

The Organizational Problem

Why does this not happen?[1]

Because there is no payoff for individuals to run such an effort.

Can this problem be solved?

As a small first step, I have started to post reusable code I wrote at github.

  1. A partial exception is QuantEcon, which is organized by Sargent and Stacchurski. But it is not an open repository.  ↩