Saturday, 21 May 2016

Prize competition - earn a $1,000

I have an interest in German fighter pilots during World War II (yes, it's a research project joint with Philip Ager and Leo Bursztyn). We particularly care about status competition amongst top-scoring pilots (the image on the left shows victory marking on the tailgate of a Messerschmidt).

We need data on pilot training, especially a brief history of which fighter schools people passed through (Luftkampfschule and Jagdfliegerschule). Anyone who can send me a detailed list containing that information about the top 200-scoring German aces should get in touch via email -- I promise to pay $1,000 or euro equivalent (first $500 for the first 100; the next $500 for the second).

We have tried our luck in the archives, to little avail; but it may just be possible that enthusiasts somewhere sit on this information, or something closely related... So let's see if "markets in everything" actually works (or prizes for the right kind of thing).

*** update 30-1-2017 *** We have actually located the right source for this (and no, nobody sent in the winning suggestion - just hard work with the German federal archives allowed us to locate the right place).

Friday, 20 May 2016

Goodbye SSRN

SSRN has been sucked into the Death Star of academic publishing, the Dutch company called Elsevier. The story is here. It's obvious what they are about -- making it impossible for people to read versions of papers published in Elsevier journals in a slightly earlier version. If you happen not to be part of the $40 per pdf paying crowd, that was a great alternative; find the same paper's wp on SSRN, and be done. Despite some weasly-worded promises, it's clear that this is what Elsevier wants to stop. After buying Mendeley, a platform for citation management and paper depository, Elsevier is basically trying to capture enough of the knowledge-sharing between academics to stop threats to its hyper-profitable overcharge-for-open-access-or-subscription model.

There is a credible alternative view, espoused here: that it's all about the value of data to Elsevier. I am skeptical... surely a firm like Elsevier could have gotten that kind of data for less?

Be that as it may: For the last 15 years, I uploaded my papers religiously on SSRN. I even had a line below my signature advertising my latest working papers there. It was a great platform to make stuff available. But barriers to entry are L O W. When I have a minute, I will move stuff to REPEC or IDEAS; there will surely be a competitor along that does at least as good a job as SSRN (which was never that great to start with).