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Introduction to the Top 40 - Economists

In 1980 the Dutch journal Economisch Statistische Berichten published the first 'Top-40 of Economists'. The list and the accompanying article were produced by someone called A.D.S. de Schuite. In 1992 he switched to the Dutch weekly magazine Intermediair. It was not until 1989 that A.D.S. de Schuite was discovered to be a non-existent person, and that, as an anagram, his name stood for 'Dutch disease'. At that time the two persons behind it revealed their identity (Arie Kapteyn and Tom Wansbeek). During the years the list caused a lot of commotion within the world of Dutch economists. Some people put their Top-40 ranking on their cv, and others were described as being the 'number one' or 'number two' on the list. Each year around Christmas, people were looking forward to the new list and speculated on the names that would be on it. But in the meantime the list itself gained more and more criticism. Some people did not agree with the selection of the approximately 70 journals the list was based on, or had doubts about the formula that was used, and the Kapteyn-Wansbeek duo decided to pass the list on to a couple of other economists. What had once started out as a game, had grown into too serious a business.

In 1990 the new couple published their first ranking, this time under the mysterious name of Petra R. van Ostende. This Petra was also a fictitious person. She stood for 'Streven naar de top' ('Aiming for the top'). During the next few years Petra limited the number of journals even more, namely to some 30, which did not make her popular among those who were excluded because of this. In 1994 the Top-40 had even shrunk to a Top-20.

In 1997 Petra, Arie Kapteyn and some other people (with affinity with the making of 'top-lists'), decided to join forces. After several brainstorming sessions they came up with a complete new way to produce a Top-40. Firstly they decided to no longer base the list on a small selection of journals, but to use the databases of (S)SCI journals. These databases are set up by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) in Philadelphia. For each journal that is contained in one of its databases, ISI reports an impact factor each year in its Journal Citation Reports (JCR). The (S)SCI-impact factor of journal j in year t is defined as the number of citations found in the (S)SCI-database in year t to articles published in j in the years t-1, t-2, divided by the total number of articles published in that journal in those two years. Then it was also considered interesting to have a top-list of universities/institutes: a Top-10, as a derivative of the Top-40 of Economists.

Another important change, compared to the previous top-lists, is that from 1998 onwards the medium of Internet is used to collect data. After searching the ISI-databases on names (provided by contact persons of each Dutch university/ institute), the results are put on the Internet and every economist in The Netherlands is invited to check his or her own output. In the event that any ISI-publications are missing (caused by an inconsistent use of initials for instance), the author can send an email. Ultimately this should lead to a list that has a minimum of 'black-box' features, and that can be checked up on by anyone in the world who feels like doing so.

bron: CentER - Tilburg

meer info: ESB Economisch Statistische Berichten










ESB Economisch Statistische Berichten





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