Monday, July 23, 2007

Peer Review: Rising or Setting?

Legal academic blogs have been buzzing recently about Harvard's new peer-reviewed journal.  Larry Solum and Brian Leiter have both written about the Journal of Legal Analysis.  Based on the Journal of Legal Analysis' board of editors, it will be heavily slanted toward law and economics; I hope that the full board will be a little more representative of the spectrum of legal analysis. But I'm grateful for anything that increases the role of professionals in the publication process and I suspect this will be a huge success.  There are already a lot of outlets for serious, peer-reviewed scholarship and that, along with the trend toward publishing monographs with university presses,I think we're close to a tipping point in the legal academy.

I have a few thoughts on the economics of legal scholarship in this short paper, which focuses on the incentives law schools have to improve their law journals (including increased faculty involvement).

However, the rest of the academy may be going in the other direction.  Danny Sokol has just called my attention to Glenn Ellison's "Is Peer Review in Decline?"  Ellison documents the decline in the faction of papers in top economics journals written by economists from top departments.  Perhaps, he speculates, this is due to the dissemination of papers on the internet.  His abstract follows:

Over the past decade there has been a decline in the fraction of papers in top economics journals written by economists from the highest-ranked economics departments. This paper documents this fact and uses additional data on publications and citations to assess various potential explanations. Several observations are consistent with the hypothesis that the Internet improves the ability of high-profile authors to disseminate their research without going through the traditional peer-review process.

So, that leads to the question whether peer review is increasing or decreasing.  And this may spark the next round of discussions in legal academic blogs on the role of the internet in scholarship....  (It seems to me that this may also be indicative of the oft-mentioned democratization of education--of terrific faculty at schools throughout the country.)

Alfred L. Brophy
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So here's a sociological observation:

Lawyers and economists spend a lot of time counting and measuring citations and publications.

A number of interpretations are consistent with this observation.

Posted by: Kurt Paulsen | Jul 24, 2007 11:07:16 AM

Hmm. So does that mean legal academics are ahead of the curve in not using peer review? Or behind the curve in just starting to use it? Or waaaaay behind the curve, in just starting to use peer review but eventually coming to accept the various criticism leveled against it?

Or perhaps right in the middle of the curve, in just talking about peer review but really moving more toward an internet-based dissemination model?

Posted by: Jeremy A.Blumenthal | Jul 25, 2007 7:50:45 PM

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