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BC Professor Receives American Economic Association Award

Boston College Professor and Chair of the Economics Department Christopher F. Baum was presented with an American Economic Association (AEA) Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes his work in promoting increased accessibility within the field of economic research. 

“It’s rewarding to see that when you do something, when you set up something, it receives praise from people who find it useful,” Baum said.

The Distinguished Service Award is presented to individuals who have impacted the field of economics on a national level through their volunteer services, according to the AEA website

Baum established the Statistical Software Components (SSC) archive over 25 years ago, which he modeled after the Research Papers in Economics (RePEc), an organization that shares working papers in the field of economics, he said.

“The original impetus for RePEc was to say, ‘Well, there are working paper series at a whole bunch of universities around the world, why don’t we figure out how to put these online and have a web interface where you can look for them?’”

According to Baum, one of RePEc’s main goals was to increase the accessibility of resources relating to economic research, especially for those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“One of the major goals of this whole program was to provide better access to economic research to people around the world—particularly in the third world, where they’re not likely to have … a well-stocked library like O’Neill with hundreds and hundreds of journals,” Baum said.

Baum first devised the idea for the SSC when he started to think about the models RePEc used to distribute working papers, he said.

“So what I thought about was, ‘Well, why can’t we distribute software this way?’” Baum said. “Just like RePEc can distribute materials in metadata about working papers and articles, I can distribute software.”

According to Baum, the SSC is now widely used at BC and on a global scale.

“The SSC archive is also commonly known as the Boston College archive because that’s where  it’s always lived for the past 25 years or so,” Baum said. “It is—these days—sort of the leading source of this material for people around the world.”

Baum said the SSC archive is used in the economics curriculum at BC, particularly in the statistics and econometrics courses, where students are required to use the programming language Stata.

“In essence then, the SSC archive has evolved as the spot for accessing materials not just for Stata, but for some other languages as well,” Baum said. 

Baum said it felt fulfilling to be notified he won the AEA award.

“It’s gratifying to realize that you can help a lot of researchers do better work—better, more reliable work in their own work,” Baum said. “You know, that’s rewarding.”

In addition to his work in economics, Baum is also a professor of social work at BC. For the past 10 years, he has collaborated with BC School of Social Work Professor Summer Sherburne Hawkins on public health research.

“I do a lot of work looking at the impact of policies on women’s health,” Hawkins said. “[Baum] has an expertise in big data and, obviously, economics methods, so it was kind of this great partnership.”

Hawkins said Baum is particularly skilled at working with others.

“As a collaborator, he’s so patient, he explains things to people,” Hawkins said. “He’s kind of great at working with people across all levels of their career—everything from undergrads to graduate students to faculty members.”

Hawkins said she was especially pleased that Baum was recognized for his extensive career.

“I think it’s just so well deserved,” Hawkins said. “It just kind of highlights all that he’s done, which I think we’re all so proud of him for.”

February 11, 2024

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