|Souce: The Economist magazine|
The Economist asked Appinions, a startup that analyses influence online, to look at a list of 500 economists—the 450 atop the RePEc list, plus some we chose ourselves. Appinions tracked how much attention was paid to their utterances in the mainstream media, the blogosphere and in social media over a 90-day period up to December 11th 2014. That produced an alternative influence ranking (see table).Jonathan Gruber, a health economist, received a lot of attention in the last months of 2014 when the media announced that he had been an important player in the design of Obamacare and that he believed it had been misrepresented. It turned out he had played a role, but not as important as the media implied, and he later retracted the charge. He is a serious economist with a decent professional representation, who perhaps has had his 15 minutes in the media spotlight.
Paul Krugman is that rare bird -- a public intellectual, with a Nobel Prize in Economics and a widely read and influential column in the New York Times.
Many of the other people listed are newsworthy mainly because of their current or former positions on important economic policy boards; their public statements indicate economic policy of interest to the media. Not surprisingly, most of these are also highly ranked according to their professional publications -- we look to serious economists to make public policy.
Economists whose work has come to define public debates do well, too. They include Thomas Piketty, author of a bestselling book on economic inequality; Larry Summers, who has been warning of the risks of “secular stagnation”; and Robert Shiller, an authority on financial-market instability.Daniel Kahneman is also a Nobel Laureate in Economics for his seminal work on the psychology of economic decision making -- work that justifiably has won him a high ranking for his contributions to the professional economic literature. He has a relatively recent and very popular book out explaining a theory of the brain and decision making, and his theories are generating a lot of media interest.
The point I would make is that different indicators may appear similar, but may actually do quite different things. RePEc is good for measuring the visibility of economists in the professional literature; it is not equally good for predicting the impact of economists in the more popular media during a relatively short period of time.
I find it relatively reassuring that so many of the economists quoted by the media do in fact have strong professional credits justifying that attention.