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Sunday, October 28, 2007

Citation counts and the philosophy of law

I heard that a certain student-run law review assesses submissions on the basis of whether acceptance is likely to increase the journal’s citation rank – in particular whether the average number of citations per article for the author is higher than the average number of citations per article for the law review.

I’m not sure whether satisfying this condition is necessary for acceptance or simply weighs in one’s favor. I also don’t know whether exceptions are made for areas of the law (e.g. tax) where articles generally get few citations. But unless there is an exception made for the philosophy of law (something I doubt), such a practice, if generally accepted, could mean that philosophy of law articles in student-run law reviews will be few and far between.

Ronald Dworkin aside, even the most eminent philosophers of law generally have lower citation counts than, say, moderately successful constitutional law scholars. Worse yet, someone who writes in a high citation area would have a leg up when submitting a philosophy of law article compared to someone who writes exclusively in the philosophy of law.

Is this a problem? Or should philosophers of law not be publishing in student-run law reviews in the first place?

Posted by Michael S. Green on October 28, 2007 at 06:41 PM | Permalink


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Posted by: greglas | Oct 29, 2007 11:26:35 AM

Assuming that any article philosophers of law submit can be published in some student-edited law journal somewhere (and conventional wisdom says that any legal academic article at all can be), what does it matter to them where it's published, and thus, what does it matter to them what criteria student editors use to select articles? Or could it be the case that the philosophers of law also care about citation counts (or rather, about prestige, for which they're a proxy)? In that case, then yes, perhaps it is a problem because it leads philosophy of law to be unrepresented in top journals, but then philosophers of law are just as complicit in the problem as student editors.

The acceptance ratios at any given law review are so law that the process has a significant dart-throwing quality about it already. On the long view, student-editor irrationality is only a serious problem if it keeps things from being published that ought to be published. It's our job as faculty to read scholarship seriously no matter where it comes out. Once the question becomes merely one of publication location, we can only complain about poor student editorial judgment to the extent that we're using it as a proxy for our own.

Posted by: James Grimmelmann | Oct 28, 2007 9:59:23 PM

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