September 21, 2012
A Glutton for Punishment: (Phillips and) Yoo's Info-Antics
Soon after the SSRN release of The Cite Stuff: Inventing a Better Law Faculty Relevance Measure by James Cleith Phillips and John Yoo, ATL's David Lat wrote
Some liberals view Professor John Yoo as a sadist. They cite Professor Yoo’s involvement in the so-called “torture memos” during his time as a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel.
But I think Professor Yoo is a masochist. Only a masochist would try to develop a citation-based system for ranking the relevance of law professors.
For much more, see Lat's The 50 Most Relevant Law Professors ("Relevant law professors? Yes, they exist! ... Yes, law professors are efficient too!") Note well Lat's update by way of quoting from ATL law prof readers:
[T]his study is limited to full-time tenure-track faculty who are not clinical faculty, and is also limited to those professors on the faculty for the 2011-2012 school year. It only looks at the top 16 law schools according to the U.S. News and World Report’s academic peer rankings as databases are constantly updated and a citation study that stretches out over too much time will be biased in favor of the faculties done later in the study as the databases will have been updated and have more citations near the end of the period of gathering data.
Let the punishment begin continue. See, for example, Phillips & Yoo Citation Study Has Some Serious Problems ("Yoo and Phillips aren’t even measuring citations correctly, let alone quality.") Ouch. Leap to the Kevin Bacon frat house Initiation scene in National Lampoon's Animal House.
Frankly, the only value I see in the vast majority of these "studies" resides in their contributions to the arcane BDSM discipline known as the cultural anthropology of the frat house that is the legal academy. But see Beyond Cite Stuff by Law Profs for one research report that deserves closer examination and discussion than it is receiving.
Why isn't Triangulating Judicial Responsiveness: Automated Content Analysis, Judicial Opinions, and the Methodology of Legal Scholarship [SSRN] receiving much buzz? Is it because the offered methodology is too complex for quick and easy critiques by members of the legal academy? Is it because the data set for the content analysis has nothing to do with law prof or law faculty publications?
Like OMG dude, why are the authors of that paper writing about a method to analyze court opinions and related documents based on information science! [JH]