Friday, June 5, 2015

Law Librarians Upping Efficacy Of Faculty Scholarship

Is your faculty's scholarship reaching its intended audience? Is it truly having an impact?

Most law schools are in the zero-sum game of the USNews ranking system. The quality assessment by peers and lawyers/judges makes up nearly 40% of the overall score. One of the ways to help this score is by upping the reputation of the school - say, through the promotion of impactful faculty scholarship.

Currently, we have impact factors for the individual journals, but there is no widespread system of comparing the schools' overall faculty scholarship. One (of a few) impact factors for the individual journals is from the Washington & Lee Law Journal Submissions & Rankings Database is based on "the average number of annual citations to articles in each journal (rounded to two decimal places)."

One (imperfect) method of comparing scholarship for an entire school's faculty is to base it on the number of downloads from SSRN &/or the institutional repository. Bepress Scholarly Commons institutional repository has a great feature that performs live tracking of downloads for all articles, and for all of the schools that use Scholarly Commons, it is easy to compare total downloads.

While the download tracking functionality is wonderful, it does not capture the downloads on SSRN. And there are many schools that do not use Scholarly Commons as the institutional repository, so this comparison does not work for them. 

In order to make this type of comparison of faculty scholarship across all law schools consistent, librarians are in the best position to make it a reality. The librarian workflow could include tracking faculty scholarship alerts. Anytime there is a new article, the librarian could automatically upload it to SSRN and to the institutional repository - writing the necessary abstracts and attaching keywords. The librarian could then use the law library's social media accounts to promote the scholarship.

Once all faculty scholarship (both current and retrospective) has been uploaded to SSRN and the institutional repository, the librarian could then track the number of actual downloads to create an faculty scholarship comparison of sorts. 

Until all schools utilize a similar system of uploading scholarship and tracking downloads, the numbers will forever be skewed. And the download system can be gamed, so it's not a perfect measure of the efficacy of scholarship. But it's an idea. 

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