[open-development] [open-economics] Project idea OpenEcon and call for coders

Dirk Heine dirk at common-future.org
Mon Apr 18 11:21:14 UTC 2011

This is a great idea!, and -despite not being a noncoder unfortunately-
I would be interested in contributing what I can (like: feeding

Your idea would also fit http://appsforscience.com/ 

And the price we gained from the appsfordevelopment competition could
finance a starter (even though I still very much hope that you guys will
consider ProgressVote). 

Best wishes,


On Mo, 2011-04-18 at 09:50 +0200, Guo Xu wrote:
> I am reposting this because last e-mail was jumbled up for some weird reason...
> ###
> Dear list,
> Just wanted to share an idea I had for quite a while. So far, I
> haven't been able to explore this further - just wanted to use this
> list as an opportunity to get some feedback.
> In the course of my studies and research, I have come across many
> empirical (macro) econ papers. Basically, all papers are about the
> relationship between X and Y, for example GDP growth and education
> etc.
> Even though presumably rigorous, most relationships prove very
> fragile: After 20 years of growth regressions (Y=GDP growth), for
> example, we still have not found any robust explanatory variable (X).
> Another notorious example comes from the democracy-growth research: In
> a review of 81 empirical studies (all using growth as Y and democracy
> as X), 16% of the papers find a negative significant relationship, 20%
> a negative insignificant, 38% a positive insignificant and 26% a
> positive significant relationship.
> Why is this so? Basically, there are too many degrees of freedom: You
> can choose among a large number of datasets, use a different time
> period, restrict the number of countries, vary with the number of
> control variables and play around with the econometric estimation
> (OLS, robust, clustered, FE, RE etc.). This means that you can always
> get the result you want, as long as you just try hard enough and
> recombine the different choices - this is what people call "kitchen
> sink regressions", a result of data mining and confirmation bias.
> Why is this a problem? Unfortunately, published articles will not tell
> you how many different specifications they have tried until they
> finally got their results (of course, this is a very unscientific
> approach but it does happen a lot) - instead, the result will be
> presented as if it was obtained at first trial. There is also a huge
> pile of "novel contributions" that claim to have finally found the
> "real" relationship, adding to the pile of contradicting empirical
> work.
> My idea now is to create a public database where relationships can be
> entered (let's call this project "X on Y" for now) and searched.
> Basically, you would choose your Y and X and the website would throw
> out all existing results, either entered by users or scraped from the
> pile of existing studies (most of the output tables are almost
> standardized so it should be doable). This would be incredibly useful
> for researchers. For example, if I am considering to test the
> relationship between Co2 reductions and democracy, I would not need to
> go through a literature research but can simply check on the website.
> The website would then throw out all existing findings (how many
> positive significant, how many negative significant etc.), maybe
> including the link to the paper or the datasets. This would save a lot
> of redundant work and help to advance in research.
> The website would also capture those regressions that are NOT reported
> in the final
> research paper. This would also allow others to check whether the
> result is based on confirmation bias (how many different variations
> did s/he try before reporting the final result?). Eventually, the
> website might even turn out to be a source of validation for
> researchers. The website would be THE departing point for empirical
> research. People need not go through piles of literature review but
> can get the results in a standardized format.
> Such a website does not exist (to my knowledge) but can have a
> profound impact on how research in economics is done: 1) We could also
> write a plugin for econometric software like Stata that reports each
> regression you run (the resulting relationship) to the website. 2) By
> doing so, the app would even ADVANCE research as it would allow the
> creation of meta-regressions. These are regressions that use existing
> studies (for example all 81 democracy-growth studies) to estimate a
> robust relationship by controlling for differences in the method of
> estimation (sample, measures, etc). Meta-regressions have become
> increasingly popular these days but generally require a lot of
> literature review, which could be avoided if we had that database.
> As a researcher, I am quite certain that this tool will be very
> useful. Unfortunately, I do not have the technical knowledge to
> program such a website (I have an ASP 3.0 background but will not be
> able to use all the new technologies). Just wanted to check if anyone
> is interested in investing some time in this? I could also try to
> mobilize some resources for this - this is a HUGE gap and filling this
> could really change the way macroeconometrics is done.
> Guo
> _______________________________________________
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> open-economics at lists.okfn.org
> http://lists.okfn.org/mailman/listinfo/open-economics

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