title: 'Economiccomplexity: Computational Methods for Economic Complexity' authors: - affiliation: 1 name: Mauricio Vargas orcid: 0000-0003-1017-7574 date: "23 August 2018" output: pdf_document bibliography: REFERENCES.bib tags: - R - economic complexity - international trade - income inequality - migration affiliations: - index: 1 name: Pontifical Catholic University of Chile


Economic complexity introduces network theory concepts to different social science considerations related to international trade and income inequality. With the bulk of literature established in the last decade, the field of economic complexity is relatively new. Its approach starts from representing international trade data as a bipartite network that connects countries to the products that they export.

Seminal papers in economic complexity are: @productspace2007, which introduces graphs to explore trade diversification and export opportunities; and @buildingblocks2009, which develops dedicated metrics of complexity. These two articles are expanded and interpreted by @atlas2014, whose typesetted equations were translated to code in the R package economiccomplexity.

This R package provides different methods to compute complexity metrics that ease access to this line of research for social scientists. economiccomplexity:: depends on Matrix:: and igraph::, and follows the same design philosophy, grammar, and data structures from it [@matrix; @igraph].

Recent articles such as @linking2017 introduce the question whereas a country's mix of products could predict its pattern of diversification and income inequality, but do not include linked and executable code and data. This separation between the research, the complete process that produced the results, and its presentation, makes it difficult for others to verify the findings in the study.

economiccomplexity:: might help to evaluate research findings in this particular area, reducing the number of studies that are not reproducible, or only partially reproducible with some discrepancies, conditional on the availability of data, metadata, and computing power that may be unavailable to all researchers.

The central contribution of economiccomplexity:: is to provide functions that use recursive linear algebra methods from @buildingblocks2009 in R, with tests and full documentation for release on CRAN, the dominant repository of R software.

@metrics2012 presents non-linear iterative methods that extend the linear approach from @buildingblocks2009 in order to capture the link between the export basket of different countries and their industrial competitiveness. This approach is also implemented in economiccomplexity::, but following the formulation from @measuringcomplexity2015 that introduces extremality parameters that generalize the original formulation.

@reproducible2011 states that reproducibility has the potential to serve as a minimum standard when full independent replication of a study is not possible, and that becomes even more important to evaluate scientific claims in studies with public policy implications. A tenet of the scientific method holds that every research finding should be reproducible before it becomes accepted as a genuine contribution to human knowledge [@computing2009].

Complexity methods are also used outside its original research area. In particular, the fitness method from @metrics2012 has been used in ecology to study species interaction [@ranking2015] and, more directly related, to study the scientific competitiveness of nations [@scientific2014].

The application widespread of economic complexity should be considered with caution. Any theoretical or computational implementation shall be far from becoming a keystone if reproducibility is ignored. The extent to which code in computational research would build with reasonable effort is lower than 20% [@measuring2014]. A desirable growth pattern should focus on reproducibility, and I hope this package means a contribution to transparent research practices.

@atlas2014 proposes the equivalency between the reflections and the eigenvalues methods that they present. My code on GitHub checks for the sign of the correlation for the vector output of the two methods and corrects the eigenvalues output when necessary. What motivated those additional steps is that, what I initially tought it was an error, turned out to be a particular case that emerges with some datasets. Shortly after implementing that, both Python and Stata users started sending me emails when they, independently, found the same problem and then search engines led them to my package.


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economiccomplexity documentation built on Jan. 13, 2021, 5:41 p.m.