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Baker News

october 2005

We create and manage the information and knowledge sharing experience in which Harvard Business School exchanges and uses information and knowledge assets.

Top Story

Faculty Research Explores the Micro and Macro

David Hawkins began writing a case on eBay, he knew research was going to be a tall order. The case was to explore the measurement and role of free cash flow in financial analysis. The problem: "Nothing had ever been done on that before," said Hawkins, the Lovett-Learned Professor of Business Administration.

The job fell to Baker Research Services (BRS), which provides faculty, doctoral students, and RAs with research assistance, specializing in data retrieval and analysis. The seven-member team is accustomed to a wide range of requests—everything from "In 1850, how long did it take a steamship to travel 100 miles?" to "Please calculate and analyze betas for the U.S. household durable goods industry for 1990-2005."

For Professor Hawkins, Business Information Analyst Kathleen Ryan was able to dig up eBay SEC documents, background on the PayPal merger, and a review of the academic literature on using free cash flow as a performance measure. Hawkins' case, "eBay Inc.: Internet Success or Fairy Tale?", provided new insights into how financial analysts and executives can study financial statements.

The team also helped Tarun Khanna, the Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor at HBS, with his long-running research on entrepreneurship and emerging markets worldwide. "Much of the value-added they brought was in helping integrate hand-collected databases that I had put together from disparate sources in the mid- to late-1990s from fifteen countries, and updating them by integrating this information with standard databases," says Khanna. That data served as a foundation for a large number of cases, papers, and other research on the topic published over the years.

Through BRS, faculty and doctoral students have access to research support that is almost unheard of at other universities, which contributes to Harvard Business School's recognition as a world-class research organization. "Groups like ours, with professional degrees, institutional knowledge, and long tenures, are rare," says Sarah Eriksen, Associate Director of the group. The result is that HBS researchers can spend more time thinking and analyzing their work rather than worrying about data management, vendor contracts, and data quality.


Spotlight on Historical Collections

Infamous Financial Bubble Attracts Diverse Set of Researchers to Historical Collections

Even smart people like Sir Isaac Newton may have been tempted by the South Sea Company in 1720. The company's elaborate scheme to relieve the British government of public debt attracted investors in droves. And if Newton and prominent individuals such as the poet and dramatist John Gay could have been lured into the speculative frenzy of this joint-stock effort, the common man didn't stand a chance.

Newton, who is rumored to have forfeited £20,000, would have been just one of the many investors who lost their shirts in this dramatic and influential financial bubble. Dramatic because share prices zoomed from £128 to £1,050 and plummeted to £175 in a single year; influential because the subsequent pall on investing may have stifled economic progress for years to come, though this remains hotly debated. The South Sea era also marked an important time of widespread private investment, when ordinary people could get involved, and burned, in the stock market.

Researchers from within and outside Harvard are diving into Baker Library Historical Collections' rich array of resources on the South Sea Bubble. A number of them, including all of the visual materials, have been digitized in an online Web guide. The collection yields a wide range of material that can improve our understanding of everything from investor psychology to high finance. Just a few of the researchers who've pored through the collection include:

  • A Harvard University graduate student in the history of art and architecture, who used the set of South Sea playing cards to investigate the connection between gambling and capitalism. She also examined scenes on the playing cards to study cultural change.
  • Playing Cards
  • A University of Hamburg graduate student, who sought information in the collection to shed light on the involvement of Handel in the South Sea Bubble. As it turned out, Handel was not mentioned in Baker's manuscript resources, but the researcher uncovered other leads to pursue.
  • A Brown University professor, who used multiple items from the collection in her class "Money and Society: An Introduction to Economic Sociology."

The South Sea Collection index lists over 300 items of financial, social, and cultural interest; 26 titles and the collection's 74 images plus all 52 playing cards have been digitized to date. Wonderfully detailed historical resources trace the evolution of finance. Pamphlet literature documents the excitement of the time. Among the collection's subject areas are Commerce and Trade, Companies, Crime and Law, Finance, Government and Politics, and Recreation and Arts. Alexander Pope wrote a poem to deride the swindle; Jonathan Swift and Daniel Defoe also penned commentary.

"This is our first step toward making the South Sea Bubble Collection truly a virtual collection," says project manager Karen Bailey. While the online guide assists researchers in connecting with resources, researchers are encouraged to view the collection in person. "We welcome and encourage use of the original material," says Bailey. "The digital versions are not replacements for materials in their original state."

An accompanying exhibit in the lobby of Baker Library will continue through January 29, 2006.

Contact: Historical Collections

New Services and Products

New Ejournals

Several new eJournals are now available on the Harvard Libraries Find e-Journals site:

  • Chronicle of Higher Education: Click on Miscellaneous E-journals for full access to all stories, job postings, salary data, special issues, and more.
  • Institutional Investor: Click on Miscellaneous E-journals for full access to stories from Institutional Investor Magazine, Alpha (II's Hedge Fund publication), League Tables, and other special features. This publication is career- and practitioner-oriented.
  • Institutional Investor Business Library Suite Online Journal Package: Get full access to pdf files of all articles from Journal of Alternative Investments, Journal of Derivatives, Journal of Fixed Income, Journal of Investing, Journal of Investment Compliance, Journal of Portfolio Management, Journal of Private Equity, Journal of Structured Finance, and Journal of Wealth Management. These publications are theoretical and academic.

Information Mine


What's in it? Data on over 13 million companies worldwide, including company financials, market research, ratings and country reports, scanned reports, ownership, and M&A data. Companies can be searched from a single interface or in component products with specialized search and screening capabilities.

Who has access? Harvard University affiliates with IDs and PINs and visitors to any of the Harvard libraries.

Where is it? Linked from the Baker home page ( Some of the data is also available via Wharton Research Data Service in the Financial Databases Room. WRDS is restricted to current HU faculty, students, and staff.

Research example: Did a shortage of bank capital account for the failure of banks to respond to monetary policy in Japan in 1997?

Career example: Interested in working on mergers and acquisitions in China? Use Zephyr to create a league table of the firms that have advised on the most deals in the past six months.

Research Tip

Personalization Creates Productivity on e-Research

When using e-Research at Harvard, be sure to LOG IN . That way you can store frequently used e-Resources, e-Journals, or citations retrieved from Cross Search, in a basket to view later.

Here's how. After finding a resource (or citation) that you want to keep click on the plus icon icon; the material will be saved in the My Research area. (Note, some resources are either not cross searchable, or don't allow this storage. Individual citations from these resources cannot be stored. Planned enhancements to the service include the ability to store citations retrieved from an e-Resource's native interface in e-Research.) Click on MY RESEARCH (after logging in) to go back to what you have saved.

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