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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Self-Archive Your Scholarship

Scholarly articles should be freely available on the internet – downloadable, without charge, at a click. And legal scholars should see that this happens for their articles.

Let’s face it. As academics, we are in an enviable position. Others pay us to engage in scholarship – largely to write law-review articles. Our efforts are funded by tuition-paying students, alumni benefactors, and in many cases, the taxpaying public. It seems to me that the least we owe in return is making our scholarly articles available to everyone who wants to see them.

I would go so far as to say that I think there is something of an ethical obligation to do this.

Take you, for instance. You just finished the perfect law-review article:

The International Intersection of Intellectual Property and Constitutional Liberties in the Sports and Entertainment Industries: Implications for Race, Gender, the Environment, and Animal Rights

You’ve finally achieved your life-goal of being able to hit “select all” on the ExpressO article-submission service. Now, are you really going to keep your carefully crafted masterpiece from the 99% of humanity that doesn’t have Westlaw, Lexis/Nexis, or a subscription to the Transnational Journal of Winter Sports Law?

If there is some good to be served by law professors writing scholarly articles, then that good is furthered by posting articles publicly. And if, as some argue, law professors are only out to obfuscate, confuse, and annoy, then those goals are necessarily furthered by public posting as well.

It turns out that I am not the only person who feels that it is important to make the fruits of research accessible. There is something of a movement specifically along the lines of what I am talking about. It’s called self-archiving. Yet it appears to be far more popular in the sciences than in the legal academy. I hope that changes.

Now wait a minute, you say. There is a potential copyright issue here, right?

Yes, there might be, if you signed over the copyright or certain exclusive rights to your publisher. But many law reviews are now putting a self-archiving right in their standard author agreements. And my sense is that most of those who don’t are open to the idea if asked. So if you are in the midst of law-review submissions right now, I urge you to try to secure the right to self-archive your work. And for articles you have already published without retaining the right to self-archive, why not e-mail the law review and ask for permission now. The worst they can say is no. And they will probably say yes.

Then, put your articles up on your webpage where people can get at them.

Posted by Eric E. Johnson on April 9, 2009 at 10:00 PM in Information and Technology | Permalink


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I agree with your point enthusiastically, but note that the suggested remedy is much easier for legal periodicals. In the vast majority of the journals I am interested in (related to medical humanities, history of medicine, ethics, etc.), the journals demand copyright as a condition of publication. I might well be able to negotiate this with a student-run law journal. I have no chance of negotiating this with Kluwer/Springer, Science Direct, Wiley, etc.

Posted by: Daniel S. Goldberg | Apr 11, 2009 11:39:04 PM

That's what I do. I like the idea of self-archiving empirical data as well.

Posted by: Michael Risch | Apr 11, 2009 9:00:48 AM

Michael, I don't think SSRN counts when the link takes you to a preprint version of the article. But if the final, published version has been uploaded onto SSRN, in its law-review-page layout so that it's fully citable, then yes, that absolutely counts.

Posted by: Eric E. Johnson | Apr 10, 2009 7:14:07 PM

LOL at the journal article.

Posted by: Stuart Buck | Apr 10, 2009 2:39:24 PM

Eric, I would expand your point to empirical data in scholarly articles. If it is feasible (and it often is), the data should be made publicly available online for other scholars to download. Some journals have started down this path (even providing a web-integrated application for analysis), as have prominent ELS scholars. More needs to be done, though.

Posted by: ELS enthusiast | Apr 10, 2009 12:10:04 PM

Close, but no cigar Eric. You forgot to include implications on the Criminal Justice system...

Posted by: Doug | Apr 10, 2009 8:30:58 AM

And all this time, I thought that advertising all your articles to the world was called shameless self-promotion! Little did I know it was a valuable public service...

Does posting links to SSRN count? If so, then don't most people self-archive?

Posted by: Michael Risch | Apr 10, 2009 7:13:50 AM

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