Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Does your school have "SSRN Norms?" What are they?
A friend from another law school wrote to ask the following interesting questions:
I’m trying to get a sense of what other schools’ and scholars’ “norms” are regarding SSRN, and would really welcome and appreciate your thoughts. So, at your school:
- Is every member of the faculty expected to be a listed author and, if so, is there a staff person or administrator who arranges this?
- Is there a working sense about what kind of papers should / should not be put up? Working papers only, or do people arrange to put older published work up as well?
- Is it “not done” for faculty members, when assigning their own papers, to send students to SSRN to download the paper? (I gather that some faculty are known for racking up big download numbers by doing this?)
- Do you allow students who have published scholarly papers to be included in your school’s SSRN author-list and download totals?
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We don't expect everyone to be up, but we strongly encourage it and just about everyone is. We have a librarian who handles the administrative side of this. We also hold information sessions to show people how to use it and BePress for research, posting, reading current work, etc. People run the gamut as to what they put up, although I think a lot of us follow the "twice" model--once at submission, once in final, published form.
Posted by: Howard Wasserman | Mar 9, 2011 1:23:18 PM
"Is it “not done” for faculty members, when assigning their own papers, to send students to SSRN to download the paper? (I gather that some faculty are known for racking up big download numbers by doing this?)"
Is it ever not-"not done" to do this? I can't imagine a law school tolerating what's basically cheating to create a false perception of your work's popularity (unless the article has real relevance to what you're teaching, I suppose).
Posted by: DF | Mar 9, 2011 1:39:05 PM
I know I've sent students to SSRN to look for the work of others when relevant, so I'm not sure why it should ever be inappropriate to send them to SSRN to look for my work, again, when relevant. (I think I generally give them a pincite by email or a slip copy when they are in my office, but I'm sure I've sent someone to SSRN, and I do have that ever-present link at the end of each email).
I'm probably under-sophisticated regarding the purpose of SSRN - I tend to turn to it to read scholarship I'm interested in at a stage prior to publication, and pay little attention to rankings. I also don't have the sense from colleagues I've talked to that SSRN rankings carry much weight here at FSU, but that may change over time.
Posted by: Jake Linford | Mar 9, 2011 2:10:49 PM
Thanks much, great insight everyone!
Posted by: SSRN | Mar 9, 2011 5:08:17 PM
Jake: agree 100% with the idea that it's OK to direct people to SSRN when relevant. That may indeed be the most convenient and efficient way to tell people how to access an article. But I (perhaps wrongly) got a different sense from Dan's post--that profs are directing students to download their articles even when not relevant, simply as a way to inflate download statistics. The line between the two may be blurry, but the latter strikes me as disingenuous.
Posted by: DF | Mar 9, 2011 5:47:59 PM
Jake - for many, download stats are an obsession. I'm not surprised some resort to gaming it.
Posted by: anon1 | Mar 9, 2011 9:45:38 PM
I send my students to SSRN when things aren't available on hein. I really don't like the WL/Lexis format and usually direct folks to the PDFs, which means either hein or ssrn.
I do this for my work or others.' This has maybe given me 5 or 6 more downloads than I would have otherwise gotten. I don't feel guilty about this.
I'm always a little annoyed when folks aren't on SSRN actually. So much easier to find things there than have to search through WL to see what someone has written (especially people with common last names).
Posted by: Jessica Owley | Mar 10, 2011 8:36:30 AM
*Is every member of the faculty expected to be a listed author and, if so, is there a staff person or administrator who arranges this?*
It's encouraged, but it's up to each professor.
*Is there a working sense about what kind of papers should / should not be put up? Working papers only, or do people arrange to put older published work up as well?*
It's up to them, but my own sense is that older published work should be up there, as well. With that said, I am terrible at remembering to replace old drafts with the published article when the published article comes out.
*Is it “not done” for faculty members, when assigning their own papers, to send students to SSRN to download the paper? (I gather that some faculty are known for racking up big download numbers by doing this?)*
I think it's pretty lame. For that matter, I think it's pretty lame to assign your own papers in your classes, with a few exceptions. But if you're going to assign your own paper to a class, send them a link to a .pdf on the journal website. It's too obviously gaming to send them to SSRN. On the other hand, I don't think it's at all troublesome to send individual students to SSRN if they are interested in reading your work; that's where it's posted for all to read, after all.
*Do you allow students who have published scholarly papers to be included in your school’s SSRN author-list and download totals?*
I have no idea. I generally think it's fine, as students are at the school, too.
Posted by: Orin Kerr | Mar 10, 2011 11:49:41 AM
For those of us going on the job market this fall or next, do people recommend putting our existing published articles on SSRN if we hadn't been in the habit of doing that? I have 3 published and a 4th now submitted to law reviews-- would you advise uploading all 4? I'm getting the impression hiring committees might look there, but I'm worried adding them now will make the download count woefully low. Thanks for any thoughts!
Posted by: calamityjane | Mar 10, 2011 2:19:51 PM
I would upload them all, as it easier for appointments committees to find them there. I wouldn't worry about downloads, both because people can see the date you uploaded papers and because no one expects entry-level candidates to have any.
Posted by: Orin Kerr | Mar 10, 2011 4:21:53 PM
We leave it up to individual faculty to decide whether to post their work on SSRN. Some of our most prolific scholars (including our dean) do not post their work on SSRN unless someone begs for the work and then does it for them. We offer administrative support (through the Law Library) to assist faculty to upload their work. I have no idea whether my colleagues would send students to SSRN to download the faculty's work for any reason; I doubt people would do it simply to boost their download counts because we don't count downloads as an institution, so there would be no incentive to do so. Some people posted older work when they came to UCI so that people could find it through this institutional affiliation instead of through their old institution, but my sense is that most do not.
Posted by: Catherine Fisk | Mar 10, 2011 4:37:08 PM
I had a quick question: At one point, SSRN may have admitted that people had programs that were downloading the papers in an automated way, basically "stuffing the ballot box." That's why they now have sign-ins. But did they ever do an audit to correct for the automated downloads? If not, the rankings and downloads are forever contaminated by that.
Posted by: Query | Mar 11, 2011 3:33:38 PM
about posting older works--don't forget that doing so makes those works accessible to a wide range of people around the world who might never otherwise be able to get them. While racking up downloads may have become a blood sport at some schools, the real value of SSRN, BePress and other on-line free sites is that it gets our work into the hands of those who don't have Westlaw/Lexis access. Every year I get a few emails from college students outside the US thanking me for providing them with access to articles they wouldn't otherwise be able to read. SSRN isn't only about totting up downloads to compare one's "rank."
Posted by: rebecca bratspies | Mar 16, 2011 10:34:10 AM