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Thursday, July 13, 2006

On SSRN and Peer Review

I had a thought today on the perenially interesting subjects of SSRN and peer review.  I got to thinking about it because I recently sent an article out for peer review -- a paper I posted last month on SSRN

Despite the anonymity the journal tries to preserve, I wonder whether referrees for economics journal -- and, to a lesser extent, political science journals (because political scientists don't upload to SSRN as often, I think) -- check to see if a paper has already been posted on SSRN to get author information and a download number count (that moronic register of quality).  This issue might also arise with certain peer-reviewed law journals, since law professors (especially those in the ELS and L & E world) routinely upload circulation drafts.  Could SSRN be undermining double-blind peer review?

Of course, not that many would admit to the practice.  But feel free to offer anonymous comments if you've got good info. 

I should note that I don't mean to single out SSRN as the only problem -- one could just as easily google a title to get author info if the paper has been blogged about or workshopped.  But I would imagine that many many more papers get uploaded to SSRN and then go into the publication submissions cycle than get blogged about or workshopped.  Thoughts?

Posted by Ethan Leib on July 13, 2006 at 01:13 AM in Peer-Reviewed Journals | Permalink


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Ethan, this subject came up at the "How to Publish" session at Law and Society, although not quite like this. The fact is that despite double-blind review, a reviewer may well identify you as the author because you have presented it either finished or in utero at something like LSA, because you posted it on SSRN, or, if you are so lucky as to have developed a well-known style or point of view, because the reviewer simply deduces that it is you. (Also, assuming it is on SSRN or otherwise in the public domain, perhaps a more benign take than download statistics (recognizing that if you post a great piece of satire, you can get 1,000 downloads easy) is whether it generated thoughtful discussion in the blogosphere.)

The flip side is you may recognize the blind reviewer. See William Germano's "Getting it Published" (albeit that is for books). Although my experience with a publisher is that the reviewers were blind to me, alas, I and my abortion of a manuscript (submitted way too early, and well, it WAS self-indulgent BS) were not blind to the reviewers. (If any of you read this, mea culpa, mea culpa.)

Take what follows for what it's worth as to this and as to the earlier post on peer review. (Like free legal advice, it's worth what you paid for it.) Even if we wholly resolved the current gaps between the "is" and the "ought" of law professoring (e.g. the state of peer review, the state of tenure review, the state of hiring practices, the meat market, etc.), new gaps would appear. I'm not suggesting quietism in the face of blatant inequity, but I am suggesting that nobody has yet come up with a better way to reconcile the world as it is against the way it ought to be (particularly for young people aspiring to make their way in it) than some of the old virtues like persistence, courage, and self-confidence. (One of my high school friends, whenever I would take a set in tennis from him, would tell me, "in any athletic event of at least moderate duration, class will out.") Or to put it more bluntly, go for it and let the chips fall where they may.

Posted by: Jeff Lipshaw | Jul 13, 2006 6:38:28 AM

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