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Do We Have Confidence in Economic Institutions?
Research Project

Research Networks and Research Assessment in Economics: the UK Case

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Principal Investigator: Carlo D’Ippoliti

Carlo D'Ippoliti is Associate professor of political economy at the Department of Statistical Sciences of Sapienza University of Rome. He holds a joint Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Rome “La Sapienza” and “W.F. Goethe” of Frankfurt am Main.

He has coordinated and taken part in a number of research projects on gender inequality, discrimination and social inclusion for the European Commission (DG Justice, and DG Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities), the Fundamental Rights Agency of the EU (FRA), and the Italian Government, National Antidiscrimination Office (UNAR). He is the managing editor of PSL Quarterly Review (formerly known as Banca Nazionale del Lavoro Quarterly Review) and of Moneta e Credito. In 2018 he was awarded the Lyncean Academy’s Feltrinelli Prize for young social scientists.

Project Summary

Economists like to think that everybody reacts to incentives given their constraints. People will try and do what is best for themselves – except, that is, economists. When talking about economists themselves, we suddenly assume that everybody is candid and innocent, only looking for the hard truth of social facts.

Our project questions such premise, considering economists as human beings embedded in a social and professional context. We study networks of economists in the UK, with the aim of highlighting both social and professional relations among them. Economists may be closer or further away from others, depending on where are they based, what they work on, who they work with, and so on. Crucially, we find that these networks have an impact on how frequently an economist cites in her scientific works someone else in the network.

This finding is relevant because scientific citations are considered to be the “currency” in the “scientific market”, and how many citations a person or an institution accumulates is often assumed to measure the quality of their research. The use of citations as if they measured scientific quality alone, in turn, creates incentives for economists to socially and scientifically behave in a way that maximizes their chances of being cited. The development of economics as a scientific debate is at stake; and because of the impact of economics on the design of policies and institutions, this is a larger social issue.


To be clear, scientific networks of economists are not necessarily bad: of course a person working on the macroeconomics of the UK is more likely to know and appreciate the publications of somebody who works on the same topic than an economist working on some other topic. However, our analysis shows that the personal and social component of professional networks affects the direction of the economic debate in ways that are not normally acknowledged. Moreover, some of these professional links have little to do with science: e.g. economists cite more frequently people who simply happen to have graduated in the same place as themselves, or even those who share similar political views on the main social networks. In this sense, the main aim of our project has been to shed light on the dynamics of the economics debate, and hopefully to start a discussion about how to reform it in order for it to contribute to a healthier democratic debate.



Working Paper:

There is Strength in Numbers: Scientific and Professional Ties as Determinants of Citations Among UK Economists

Carlo D'Ippoliti, Lucio Gobbi, Christian A. Mongeau Ospina, and Giulia Zacchia | May 3, 2021

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