Higher education Knowledge economy

Ireland’s economists in the world (part 2)

I’m getting better at scraping the web and I’ve now been able to calculate some things that IDEAS/RePEc does not.

This graph has the number of economists in Ireland registered at IDEAS/RePEc. It is not a natural number to account for joint appointments. The number has been rising steadily over time. I expect that trend to reverse in the coming months.

This graph shows Ireland’s position in the total population of economists. We’re a small country. I highlight Massachusetts because it is ranked highest by IDEAS/RePEc.

This graph shows the number of unique publications per person. In recent times, Ireland has done reasonably well in terms of productivity.

However, visibility cq interest is less impressive, as shown in this graph. It should be noted, though, that “abstract views” is the metric that can be most easily manipulated. That said, Ireland does not do so well either on the number of citations per publication, as shown in this graph, or on the number of citing authors per person, as shown in this graph.

As always, these results can be interpreted in a number of ways. In order to improve Ireland’s standing at IDEAS/RePEc, we’ll need to convince more people that our papers are worth citing.

The great thing about the Public Data Explorer is that you can make your own graphs. You need to go back two positions to return to this blog.

I used these Matlab scripts to scrape the web.

37 replies on “Ireland’s economists in the world (part 2)”


I have no problem with your desire to promote excellence in economics; it is unambiguously a good thing. But there are also the issues of the ‘group-think’ definition of what constitutes excellence and, perhaps more importantly, how exposure to this excellence is applied.

In my simple view economics is fundamentally about efficiently allocating resources so as to maximize the welfare of the people – both individually and collectively. However, the reality is that the vast majority of those who graduate from exposure to this excellence, whether employed in the corporate world or employed, retained or sponsored by the government machine, are required to produce – or to facilitate the production of – bullshit.

Exhibit A is the latest NCC report:

There is no shortage of similar exhibits. And this is not unique to Ireland; it is standard practice throughout the EU.

worth selecting Ireland, Iceland, Germany and Greece…. and watching the shifting fortunes of their economists over the period 2007 to present

have no idea what it says but the Germans seem remarkable steady while the fortunes of the others vary quite a bit…

Still, according to your results, we have better economists that the Germans, and we seem to be getting MUCH better so were laughing 🙂

@Paul Hunt
DMcW calls the bullshit in an article today…ESRI forecasts in 2005 and 2008
Projecting growth of 3.75% through 2015. Make you wonder….must get out my crystal ball and see what it is telling me.

How many economists does it take to predict a crisis?

I will put you a higher case: How many economists does it take to solve a crisis?

Richard Toll is just taking the piss – no need to take it seriously.
Economists are now just part of the entertainment industry – they have no real practical utility although they do give us a forum to let off steam now.

This blog is just another control mechanism – just sit back and watch the implosion and laugh in the face of adversity.
Given the propensity to sell real assets for fictional money could we invert this practise and come up with a serious study of the monetory value of souls – do mortal coils have a commodity value ? , how can it be measured ?
These new studies could become a considerable growth industry.

Web link to dmcw piece in Indo doesn’t seem to work – cant find it on the net…
Anybody any ideas (conspiracy theories?)


After ‘scraping’ the Web – did you find any ‘heterodox’ Irish economist anywhere in Ireland?

Not really serious…but….it is a right wing pro-market paper – so you never know…..
So 65% jest – 35% serious


One of the advantages of the internet is that City offices are quieter these days because the morning ritual of shovelling 90 % of the research into the bin is unnecessary.

Measuring “productivity” by how much you write, even if that work passes the minimum standard to allow publication is a bit like the way Alan Greenspan used to bang on about productivity gains that amounted to little more than the boom in business the financial sector was writing. This had little if any fundamental value.

If you click on any of the graphs, you note that there are a number of ways to measure production, most quality-controlled, and even more ways to measure impact. The data were generated by economists who know the difference between output and value added.

The September edition of the Socialist Voice is out now.

This edition includes an article by Conor McCabe on the myth of a middle class majority in Ireland. The article is replete with fascinating data, including the fact that

“With regard to wage distribution, the top 1 per cent of PAYE earners had a combined wage that was greater than that of the bottom 32 per cent-in other words, 23,000 people earned more in wages than the combined wages of more than 600,000 PAYE workers. (The gure for the top 1 percent does not include proprietary directors, nor does it include income from other sources.)”

With the introduction of a Wealth Tax in Italy for those earning over €300,000.00 – League of Ireland Clubs, and Shamrock Rovers in particular, are inundated with requests from Serie A footballers to go ‘on loan’ to the LoI via a special purpose vehicle (SPV) located somewhere in the IFSC …..


Yes I noticed, and I think some are quite useful.

I was thinking of this:
“This graph shows the number of unique publications per person. In recent times, Ireland has done reasonably well in terms of productivity.”

conflated with a few claims about academics and their “rankings” elsewhere.

@Richard re. gaming the system

IDEAS/Repec ranks Ireland-based economists as follows:

(Ranking) (Name) (Score – Smaller better) (Weighted Rank)
1. Philip Lane (1.14) (3)
2. Kevin O’Rourke (3.76) (5)
3. Karl Whelan (4.22) (8)
4. James R. Markusen (4.41) (1)
5. Paul J. Devereux (4.43) (10)
6. Patrick Honohan (4.48) (7)
7. Richard S.J. Tol (5.4) (2)

You frequently quote your average ranking, placing yourself at #169 in the world. Here are the global rankings for Ireland on that basis:

(Ireland Ranking)(Name)(Overall Ranking)(Ranking By # Works)
1. James R. Markusen (140)(446)
2. Richard Tol(169)(30)
3. Philip Lane(206)(180)
4. Kevin H. O’Rourke (642)(292)
5. Patrick Honohan(839)(589)
6. Karl Whelan (877)(697)
7. Paul Devereux (1088)(1300)

Why do the rankings place you 7th for the country but 2nd by “overall ranking”? Including a few more columns from the ranking table reveals all:

(Name)(Overall Ranking)(Ranking By # Works)(Ranking By # Citations) (#Citations weighted for no. Authors)
James R. Markusen (140)(446)(87)(65)
Richard Tol(169)(30)(1367)(1436)
Philip Lane(206)(180)(204)(169)
Kevin H. O’Rourke (642)(292)(1003)(866)
Patrick Honohan(839)(589)(862)(784)
Karl Whelan (877)(697)(912)(745)
Paul Devereux (1088)(1300)(1173)(1340)

Even though your number of publications is highest, the number of citations garnered is lowest in spite of citing yourself more than anyone else with no less than 47% of all citations being self-citations. It goes without saying that the number of citations per paper published is at subterranean levels compared with everyone else, and that that figure would drop even lower if self-citations were excluded.

Given that citations are the most common reckoner for assessing output and granting funding internationally, will you henceforth describe yourself as “the 1367th best economist in the world”?

The Ireland ranking is adjusted for presence in Ireland (60% in my case). The world ranking is not so adjusted. So, 60% Tol is 7th in Ireland while 100% Tol is 2nd.

One aspect of the rankings that is striking is that, among economists who started publishing in the last 20 years, Phillip Lane ranks 12th (richard is 21st.) Some of that ranking obviously reflects time spent but nonetheless very impressive.

One thing that would be useful is for full rankings to be produced for given time-periods as current rankings clearly dont do well in comparing people who have been working for various lengths of time.

As research rankings go, REPEC has always struck me as fairest and most transparent and most close to the values people actually have in the discipline. It penalises people who work outside as well as inside discipline to some extent but overall a very fair and open set of metrics.

I suspect I didn’t make my point sufficiently clear. There appears to be a direct correlation between the number of Irish economists listed on IDEAS/RePEc and the amount of bullshit generated by those areas where Irish graduate economists are employed. I realise that correlation does not imply causation, but it does raise some interesting questions. I also realise that it is extremely difficult to quantify bullshit with any degree of confidence, but it is worth while to contemplate the demand for, and supply of, bullshit.

The last 10-15 years has seen an enormous increase in the number of statutory bodies dealing with economic regulation and a significant increase in the delegation by governments of economic policy forumulation and implementation to these and similar bodies.

I’m reasonably confident that a large number of Irish economics graduates have found employment with these bodies and with the businesses that are regulated by them and/or engage with them. The output of these bodies in terms of glossy reports, studies, reviews, etc. seems to have grown almost exponentially during this time and economists are generally involved in the preparation of these.

The amount of bullshit in these documents, obviously, will vary enormously, but it is probably safe to assume that, on average, across all the documents there is a certain percentage of bullshit, so that the amount of bullshit is proportional to the number of documents produced and this is increasing over time. And there is no question that the government machine has an enormous and growing demand for bullshit – as well as many parts of the corporate sector.

It is also probably safe to assume that, following the banking and property implosions, the amount of bullshit produced in these areas dropped significantly, but there does not seem to be any slowing of the bullshit production in other areas. So there probably has been a step change in supply over time.

The questions puzzling me are along these lines. Are graduate economists exposed to increasingly internationally recognised Irish academic economists becoming more adept at producing bullshit? Or is a continuously increasing demand for bullshit diminishing the quality of supply – irrespective of the role of the internationally recognised academic economists? Do the internationally recognised economists produce bullshit themselves? Is there any way we can curtail the supply of bullshit by economists – since the demand seems almost infinite?

OK. I see. So, mainly because no testable hypothesis may be defined, the amount of bullshit produced by economics graduates does not appear to be of concern to the leading lights in the academic institutions seeking to climb up the international rankings.

It appears that the performance of Irelands economy has little correlation to the performance of Irelands economists….

So why should Ireland keep funding economics research?

If for example, Ireland had invested in and was providing extensive funding for soccer, and the performance of the national team worsened; there would rightly be calls for reduction of investment.

Actually, why not make like the HSE and centralize; shut down all but one and create a center of excellence?

After all, we are a country with less than the population of Manchester as the bureaucrats keep telling us when they want to cut important services but keep their own jobs.

Don’t twist my words.

Someone’s graduates generate BS. That’s a reason for concern. But we don’t know whose graduates, and whether it’s the education’s or their current employers’ fault.

@Garry – there are several major flaws in your argument. Firstly, you seem to assume that all economists work on macroeconomics/fiscal policy/housing/banking – this is not so. Secondly, you seem to assume that economists are decision makers – very very few are. Thirdly, do you think the HSE is a great success? Finally, Manchester has a population of about 500,000, Greater Manchester has a population of about 2.6 million (you seem to be confusing this with the East-Midlands 4.4 million). Now who is talking BS??

Someone’s? Why only one among the multiplicity of third level institutions awarding degrees in economics? The ‘rotten apple in the barrel’ routine doesn’t really wash any more. And should one not reasonably expect economics graduates to emerge with the ability to think critically and to have the intellectual robustness to counter the abuse of their discipline that their employers might seek to perpetrate? And should not internationally recognised academic economists be taking steps to stiffen the intellectual backbones of their charges before leaving them loose on the unsuspecting world – even if only in an attempt to reduce the disjunction between their ascent in international rankings and the general dysfunction in economic policy and regulation.

But perhaps I am being unfair and inconsistent and I apologise. I really should not criticise anyone who may be genuinely concerned about the bullshit being generated, but who is shackled by the system and doesn’t have the freedom I have to call out on the bullshit through which I’m forced to wade.

My “someone” was unfortunate. It was not intended as singular.

We agree on the symptom: official reports are full of nonsense.

I’m not convinced that faults in higher education should take most of the blame. There are plenty of officials who are clever and critical in private but less so in public.


Thank you. I realise that this, perhaps, is not the thread – but then again there never seems to be a thread – on which to tackle the symptom on which we both agree.

I have consistently argued that the Oireachtas should be resourced and empowered to scrutinise the government machine, to hold it to account and to bring the public policy debate out into the open – rather than relying on ‘clever and critical’ officials operating in private.

At the moment, the government machine has all the resources it could possibly wish for to direct and dominate whatever ‘debate’ might arise; the Oireachtas is starved of resources to critique and counter this direction and dominance in the public interest.

The issue is not a lack of resources; it is simply a total imbalance and asymmetry in their deployment. For example, there is no reason why the ESRI could not be reconstituted as a completely publicly-funded public policy research body subject to ultimate governance by the Oireachtas (and to have NESC and NCC (and the new Fiscal Council) absorbed into it – possibly supplemented by some transfer of policy formulation resource from Government Departments) to provide the resource to the Oireachtas to critique and scruntinise the policy proposals and proposed executive actions of the government machine.

Even if this resulted in some increase in total expenditure it would be more than worth it in terms of the reduction in consumer and economy damaging bullshit. And it would be more than worth it again in terms of the entertainment value when the bullshit spouted by Ministers and the government machine would be subject to forensic scrutiny and public exposure. (Eventually, the quality of the debate would improve as the government machine, knowing that its bullshit would be exposed, would reduce the production levels.)

I just can’t understand why economists with an interest and competence in the area of public policy (and sometimes a direct participation) are not agitating publicly for this and seeking to convince the Oireachtas that this would be the best way for it to remedy its current dereliction of duty in failing to hold government to account and to reduce the current and growing popular disaffection with the entire political process. (And for those who would be engaged in this manner, surely it would be far more rewarding and productive (and certainly much more in the public interest), than to be confined to wittering on blogs or via op-ed pieces or writing learned papers that few read.)

But then perhaps I am being naive and silly; the status quo may be far too comfortable.

There seems to be a gap opening up in who gets read:

National reputation could be part of it, so might the number of economists:

But then how to explain this:

And in particular Cyprus. Why has it jumped in the rankings?

Of course, self-citation could be a factor, as could regional self-citation. What would the rankings look like if all views and citations from the same region were excluded from the stats? Would that not be a better measure of papers that “travel”, and perhaps a better measure of importance.

Economics is an entirely useless profession generally dominated by an unthinking groupthink and a pre-analytic ideology which is entirely wrong i.e primacy of the market and endless growth on a finite planet. The consequence of a world where economists have been exalted to positions of supreme altar of authority and influence has been entirely insidious and serves only to maintain the global plutocracy/plutonomy. To be useful economics should solely be an adjunct to sociology or ecology rather than a profession to serve its own ends

JK Galbraith came to the same conclusion decades ago

‘Economics is useful as a form of employment for economists’…

‘The fraud begins with a controlling fact, inescapably evident but all but universally ignored. It is that the future economic performance of the economy, the passage from good times to recession or depression and back, cannot be foretold. There are ample predictions but no firm knowledge. All contend with diverse combination of uncertain government action, unknown corporate and individual behaviour and, in the larger world, with peace or war. Also with unforeseeable technological and other innovation and consumer investment response. There is the variable effects of exports, imports, capital movements and corporate, public and governmental reaction thereto. Thus the all-too-evident fact: the combined result of the unknown cannot be known. This is true for the economy as a whole, as also for the specific industry or firm. So the view of the economic future has always been. So it will always be.

In the economic and especially the financial world, nonetheless, prediction of the unknown and unknowable is as cherished and often well-rewarded occupation. It can be the basis, though often briefly, of a remunerative career. From it comes allegedly informed judgment as to the general economic prospect and that of the individual participating and affected enterprise. The men and women so engaged believe and are believed by others to have knowledge of the unknown; research is thought to create such knowledge. Because what is predicted is what others wish to hear and they wish to profit or have some return from, hope or need covers reality. Thus in the financial markets we celebrate, even welcome essential error.’

Comments are closed.