January 2, 2007
A New Year's Resolution Proposal for SSRN
A Premiere Open Source Web Destination. In an Dec. 21, 2006 email announcement to subscribers, Gregg Gordon, SSRN President, reported that the SSRN depository increased its collection in 2006 by 31% to 139,000 documents, the number of authors in SSRN grew 27% to 70,000, and the number of downloads exceeded 3 million full text papers. In the world of open source document distribution systems, SSRN has established itself as one of the premiere web destinations for the dissemination of US scholarly works. Congratulations! In the coming years I hope to see SSRN grow by greater participation from foreign authors and institutions.
We Learn from Our Mistakes. Gordon writes that "[w]e have learned that SSRN is an important part in many people's lives and when we make a mistake, they let us know about it." From a librarian's perspective, one SSRN mistake is failing to include a completion date for submitted works. There is nothing wrong is allowing authors to upload works to the depository that are 2-3-5-10-20-25 years old but one unintended consequence of not providing this fundamental bibliographic data has been the bloated claims some law schools choose to make about their "scholarly productivity." Pointing out the difference between when works were actually produced from "productivity" claims based on when works were uploaded led to some rather spacious arguments in 2006 including, in playing the unfair rankings game, such claims were OK. They are not.
Productivity & Porn. Back in the day when I performed a fair amount of labor relations/labor economics analysis, I wrote "productivity is like porn, one knows it when one see it." One also knows "law porn" when one sees it. One would hope that law schools would moderate their marketing conduct by avoiding the appearance of impropriety but they are not required to do so. At times, I think I should contribute to the literature by performing a unit cost analysis of law school "scholarly productivity!"
Tomorrow's Research Today. Gordon writes that "[SSRN's] focus on providing Tomorrow's Research Today allows research to be read much sooner than ever before." [Emphasis added] Let's hope SSRN provides users with a readily available means of identifying recent scholarship by improving bibliographic control of its online depository. A cottage industry using upload and download statistics generated by SSRN became widespread in 2006; hopefully in 2007, SSRN-generated statistics will be more accurate. [JH]
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