Wednesday, April 9, 2008

SSRN Top 25 Labor and Employment Law Faculty Download Rankings

Ssrn_logo_71When we last did a list like this two years ago, we received a number of displeased  comments along the line that we shouldn't be even doing a ranking of this nature (see previous post here). But Rick, Jeff, and I believe that for better or worse, SSRN downloads are one metric of publishing success and something that law professors, not only in our field, but in other fields as well (see tax law professor rankings here), pay attention to.  Also, many people in our area of the law rely on the SSRN subject-matter emails for new scholarship. So anything that encourages people to upload labor and employment law work, we believe, is a good thing.

Like last time, I have attempted to rank law faculty in terms of both new SSRN downloads within the past 12 months and in terms of all-time SSRN downloads. SSRN has updated its new monthly rankings of SSRN Top 1,500 Law Authors (searchable database here) as of today, April 9, 2008. 

Also like last time, I did my best as I went over the list of law professors to try to identify those faculty members whose primary teaching and research interests in the last couple of years have focused on the labor and employment law context (employment discrimination, employment law, employee benefits, and labor law). Thus, I have only included those full-time law professors who not only write in labor and employment law, but who currently teach labor and employment law courses.  Of course, and perhaps this will spur people to place more of their work on SSRN for public consumption, this ranking only includes labor and employment professors with at least one labor-related paper on SSRN.

Some thoughts about the rankings below:

  • I think it noticeable that professors at lower ranked schools tend to use SSRN more than their elite colleagues in order to get noticed in the academy. Some distinguished professors (e.g., Deborah Malamud and Robert Gorman) have no SSRN presence at all and others have little presence (e.g., Sam Estreicher, Marion Crain, and Joel Friedman).
  • It is interesting to compare these rankings to Westlaw labor and employment law citation rankings (here).  Only three professors (Stone, Schwab, and Fisk) are on both lists.
  • There is also a significant relationship between the top download authors (13 out of 27) and those who have lateraled or visited in the last few years (Secunda, Jolls, Thomas, Stone, Gely, Zelinsky, Yuracko, Bagenstos, Bodie, Hutchison, Dannin, Long, and Fisk).
  • There were 47 labor and employment law professors in the top 1500. Those who made the top 1500, but not the Top 25 below include:
    • Michael Lynx (Western Ontario (Canada)), Kate Silbaugh (BU), Ann Lofaso (West Virginia), Vicki Schultz (Yale), Jon Forman (Oklahoma), Jim Brudney (Ohio State), Keith Cunningham-Parmeter (Willamette), Lawrence Rosenthal (Chapman), Jeff Hirsch (Tennessee), Melissa Hart (Colorado), Angela Onwuachi-Willig (Iowa), Julie Suk (Cardozo), Scott Moss (Colorado), Judy Fudge (Victoria (Canada)), Joanna Grossman (Hofstra), Aaron Lacy (Barry), Tristin Green (Seton Hall), Matthew Finkin (Illinois), Elizabeth Emens (Columbia), and Michael Stein (William & Mary)
  • There are now two non-US law professors (Doorey and Davidov) in the Top 25 (and 4 in the top 45), suggesting that international scholars are using SSRN to get their work read by more academics in their fields in the United States.

In any event, I would appreciate if readers would use the comment section to please tell us about any individuals I might have missed and to also continue to debate about the utility of a list like this and what other observations can be made.

Update (4/10): It is now the Top 27 because of omissions that have come to my attention.



                     Top 25 Labor & Employment Faculty SSRN Rankings

Total New Downloads 

  All-Time Downloads 

Labor Faculty (School)

L&E Rank

Overall Rank

L&E Rank

Overall Rank

Richard Bales (N. Ky/Chase)





Paul Secunda (Mississippi)





Christine Jolls (Harvard)





Suja Thomas (Cincinnati) 4 267 7 407

Katherine V.W. Stone (UCLA)





Michael LeRoy (llinois) 6 303 22 1029

Ken Dau-Schmidt (Indiana)





Orly Lobel (San Diego)





Edward Zelinsky (Cardozo) 9 526 11 590

Kim Yuracko (Northwestern)





Sharona Hoffman (Case Western)





Rafael Gely (Cincinnati)





Charles Craver (GW) 13 579 ---- 1509

Michael Selmi (GW)





Nancy Levit (UMKC) 15 626 ------ 1121

Stewart Schwab (Cornell)





Samuel Bagenstos (Wash U.)





Matthew Bodie (St. Louis)





Harry Hutchison (Geo. Mason)





Cristina Rodriguez (NYU) 19 801 ----- 1465
David Doorey (York (Canada)) 21 840 ---- 1539

Ellen Dannin (Penn State)





Jennifer Gordon (Fordham)





Guy Davidov (Hebrew Univ. Israel)) 24 906 ------ 1163

Alex Long (Tennessee)





Richard Moberly (Nebraska) 26 966 ----- 1705

Catherine Fisk (Duke)





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I would note that SSRN, depending on how authors categorize their works, might better capture the increasing interdisciplinariness of employment law scholarship. But only if such scholars post their works on SSRN and then cross-classify across the different disciplines. At Boalt, scholars such as Catherine Albiston and Lauren Edelman have published empirical studies on employment law in sociological journals, and they are incredibly important contributions to the field of law and organizations. But too often it feels like that conjunctive "and" is tenuous at best, and the disciplines of law and sociology (or other fields of social science) talk in separate spheres.

I know that this is the legal academy we're talking about here, but with the ascendance of JD/PhDs and the increasing focus on empiricism, the legal academy refuses to acknowledge other disciplines and their (peer reviewed!) journals at its insular, ignorant peril. However, since such journals aren't indexed by Westlaw/Lexis Nexis, they aren't capable of being accessed by practioners/judges, presumably two target audiences unless you're fine with being an ivory tower intellectual. Not that ASR, AJS, or PSR are that accessible (I use my school account to access JSTOR or HeinOnline).

The best thing about SSRN is that it's free, to academics, students, practioners, judges, and lay people alike. Interdisciplinary scholars, or for that matter, any scholar who wishes for his/her work to have broader impact, should cross-list their articles and utilize free databases as much as possible (within the limits of copyrights). This would make their works available to scholars of all disciplines, and certainly to a more varied audience.

Whether this would affect abstract viewing, downloading, or citations is another matter. But the first step is accessibility, before we can decide on how to measure "impact."

Posted by: Dana Nguyen | Apr 9, 2008 2:26:07 PM

My own ranking amply demonstrates the limitations of the SSRN ranking system. My numbers are high in large measure because (1) co-authoring increases exponentially the number of authored articles; (2) other things being equal, a co-authored article is likely to garner more downloads than a solo-authored article because the article is exposed to the academic (and sometimes social) networks of two authors instead of one; (3) a download of a two-page bar journal article counts the same as the download of a 50pp. journal article; (4) a descriptive article on a popular topic likely will garner far more downloads than an analytical article on an obscure topic; (5) "marketing" an article or essay -- especially to large non-academic audiences -- can significantly enhance download figures.

I don't mean to trivialize my scholarly contributions -- I'm proud to work with students and to reach diverse audiences. But I think it's nonetheless important to recognize that using SSRN download statistics to compare scholars is, like the USNWR rankings of law schools, one-dimensional.


Posted by: Rick Bales | Apr 10, 2008 5:00:44 AM

One concern I have about promoting SSRN download rankings is that it may discourage public access to scholarship. My understanding is that to download a paper one needs an account, something not freely available to readers outside academic institutions. If SSRN is just another way to disseminate work, it makes sense to post papers both on SSRN and on one's website. But if an author is trying to game the download #'s, there's an incentive to post only to SSRN in order to divert academics' downloads away from the uncounted website. In the process, nonacademics would lose access. Seems like a shame to encourage that, or to penalize people who are more committed to public access than to pumping up their (largely meaningless) numbers.

Posted by: Noah Zatz | Apr 11, 2008 11:22:58 AM

Thanks, Noah, for the comments. As I said, we do appreciate the feedback on the utility of these rankings. Unlike you, however, I do not see these numbers as "largely meaningless," else I wouldn't have bothered to post them. I also can assure that the large number of people who logged on in the last few days to see these rankings suggest that many others are interested in these numbers as well.

Sure, as Rick points out in his comment above, there are many, many limitations to them. But all rankings have that in common.

And I can only speak for myself here, but I don't pump up my numbers or game my downloads by only posting on SSRN. I also have hundreds of downloads on bePress, my papers are available on Westlaw and Lexis, and they are also available on other social science databases such as HeinOnline and JStor, to name a few.

So I don't believe I am discouraging public access to my scholarship or any one else's. Indeed, it because of this blog and SSRN that I have been able to make more contacts with individuals outside of the academy, including practitioners, reporters, and academics from other disciplines. The way they find me, and I assume this works for others, is that my SSRN papers come up on Google-type searches of my name and research topics.

In addition, SSRN may be better than just another way to disseminate work for someone like me and others who do not have the vast academic resources of someone who is at an elite school. As I have put it to others, those at lower-ranked schools sometimes need to shout to get their work noticed in the academy. Whether that work is accepted by others, of course, depends on the quality of the work. But we do not have the frequent faculty workshops and colloquium that our elite colleagues have to display our work. Both blogging and SSRN are part of ensuring that more people get to know our work.

Posted by: Paul Secunda | Apr 11, 2008 11:44:17 AM

Noah: A person need not be affiliated with an academic institution either to download an article from SSRN or to post an article on SSRN. My understanding is that SSRN is premised on promoting free access. Rick

Posted by: Rick Bales | Apr 11, 2008 12:36:51 PM

Noah, Rick is right. I used SSRN almost exclusively during a gap year in which I had no proxy access from a school. I actually ended up having to "borrow" other people's accounts to access Westlaw. SSRN is more opethan HeinOnline or JSTOR, which require institutional affiliation (and quite expensive), much less the incredibly expensive Westlaw/LexisNexis subscription services.

Your point about gaming the download system is well taken though. I find that a problematic implication that I didn't think of. In any case, citation counts should be taken with a grain of salt, whatever the database from which one would garner such statistics. It all depends on how you define "influental," much less "important contribution." I wonder what the standards are in other disciplines.

Posted by: Dana Nguyen | Apr 11, 2008 1:39:22 PM

Thanks, Paul, Rick, and Dana for the followups. Just to be clear, I'm a huge fan of posting to SSRN, and to blogs, etc., including for all the good reasons Paul and Dana cite.

My concern is only that if an SSRN download "counts" towards a ranking in which scholars feel a need to score high, but some other download doesn't, that creates some incentive not to use the non-SSRN forum. That's only important if drying up the non-SSRN fourm has some negative side effect, like limiting access (rather than just redirecting users to SSRN).

It appears from Dana and Rick that I may be incorrect about this risk of a negative side effect. If so, I will happily quash my qualms. I'd swear I need to enter an email and password the first time I d/l from SSRN on a given machine , and I did check w/a librarian on this point before posting my 1st comment. Perhaps, tho, the account is free, so it's just a small one-time registration hassle, not a question of restricted access.

As a small, deeply unscientific market test, I did recently notice an instance in which I passed along an SSRN link for a public posting (to what I thought of as an academic audience) and the poster substituted a direct link to the PDF posted on my UCLA site (perhaps b/c it's one click, rather than going to the SSRN abstract cite and then clicking again to download).

And I'll happily withdraw "largely meaningless" and substitute "potentially misleading." Obviously it all depends on the purpose -- as a measure of "what are people reading from SSRN these days" downloads seem pretty helpful. For that reason, incidentally, I don't have the same gut negative reaction to your "top 5 recently downloaded articles" postings, though perhaps the distinction isn't sustainable.

Just what you needed, two more cents!

Posted by: Noah Zatz | Apr 12, 2008 2:18:17 PM

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