August 18, 2005
Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance
Fellow Law Professor Blogs Network blogger, Paul Caron (Cincinnati, TaxProf Blog) and Professor Bernard S. Black (Texas) have released for distribution on SSRN Ranking Law Schools: Using SSRN to Measure Scholarly Performance
Abstract: There are several methods for ranking the scholarly performance of law faculties, including reputation surveys (U.S. News, Leiter); publication counts (Lindgren & Seltzer, Leiter); and citation counts (Eisenberg & Wells, Leiter). Each offers a useful but partial picture of faculty performance. We explore here whether the new “beta” SSRN-based measures (number of downloads and number of posted papers) can offer a different, also useful, albeit also partial, picture. Our modest claim is that SSRN-based measures can address some of the deficiencies in these other measures and thus play a valuable role in the rankings tapestry. For example, SSRN offers real-time data covering most American law schools and many foreign law schools, while citation and publication counts appear sporadically and cover a limited number of U.S. schools. The SSRN measures favor work with audiences across disciplines and across countries, while other measures are more law-centric and U.S.-centric. SSRN is relatively new and thus favors younger scholars and improving schools, while other measures favor more established scholars and schools. At the same time, the SSRN measures have important field and other biases, as well as gaming risks. We assess the correlations among the different measures, both on an aggregate and on a per faculty member basis. We find that all measures are strongly correlated; that total and per faculty measures are highly correlated; and that SSRN measures based on number of papers are highly correlated with measures based on number of downloads. Among major schools, all measures also correlate with school size.
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