Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Environmental Peer Review

Lots of people are up in arms about Adam Liptak’s piece in NYT where he trashes law reviews by rehashing arguments we have all heard many times before. I was surprised by the somewhat sloppy nature of the piece that cobbles together some random arguments on different aspects of law reviews and was amused by the fact that an article criticizing law reviews cited so many of them. Many others have already critiqued and/or agreed with the piece (I fall into both those camps myself), and I want to move the discussion to alternative forms of publication. Let’s talk peer review.

My completely unresearched feeling is that environmental law is more connected with peer reviewed literature than some of the other legal fields. I read and cite peer reviewed literature almost as often and law journals and cases. Additionally, peer reviewed journals like Conservation Letters, Environmental Management, and Conservation Biology periodically solicit reviews from me.

 Discussion question one: How many peer reviews should one do before feeling okay turning some down? I tend to do almost everyone I am asked to do unless I have a conflict of interest, but the frequency of request increases the more reviews you do so the pile is growing. One of my pals from grad school asserts that it is a 2 to 1 ratio (2 reviews for every one you submit). Frankly, it takes me a long time to do each review too. I would say it is usually a full day’s work for me. Not sure if I am faster or slower than other folks here. I have also been asked to review a few books and they take even longer.

I am also finding myself increasingly interested in publishing in peer reviewed journals. If I am hoping that actual land managers read my work, peer reviewed journals is the way to go. What if I want policy makers to read it though?

Discussion question two: Where should we publish if we hope to disseminate our ideas beyond other law professors? What do we think policy makers read? Anytime of book or journal? The newspaper? Perhaps has Adam Liptak suggests, it should be on blogs. In tweets? Instagram? Therefore all my subsequent posts will be about my research because that is clearly the best way to get Congress to change its approach to land conservation. Sean Nolon recently suggested I start a website, and I think someone else hinted that I should turn my research into a movie. We all know Judge Kozinski loves movies so maybe that is the best way to get him exposed to my brilliance. Of course, it isn’t really judges we expect to read our stuff – just their law clerks.

- jessie owley

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