Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Challenge for Google, or Someone Else

There is a statement I have paraphrased frequently which is; the question is more important than the answer. Posing the right question often is what leads scientists to finding really interesting facts. Posing the right question helps on getting the best out of a PhD thesis.

In reading Mankiw's blog I found him saying at the end:

Here is a project for some ambitious blogger: Go to old ERPs, which list the CEA members and staff, and collate them with data on citations. That would provide one way to judge objectively (albeit imperfectly) the quality of CEA economists over time.

This is a brilliant question, not necessarily for the purpose for which he apparently set if forth, which was interesting in and of itself. The reason I think is is important is that it would be great if you could ask this question of say Google. The question is a simple and elegant example of the next step in search. We know that the lists of economists are somewhere in a text, and frankly I just want the list, and we know that the citations are somewhere if we have the names, just look at his link, and we know how we want the data presented, number of citations per year, or in some similar manner. These meta objects of search can be readily identified, culled, sorted, cross referenced and then given as the desired result.

At the other extreme try getting economic data from many Government Department web sites, you are lucky if it is in pdf format and then you cut and paste. The St Louis FED is a God send but they are not really Washington types.

So if anyone at Google is listening, there is most likely some computer type, one of my great great great student descendants solving this problem now, all they have to do is monetize it!