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March 17, 2007

SSRN downloads rankings and blogs

I consider the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) a terrific service that, like some academic blogs, provides effective access to lots of scholarly insights in a timely fashion.  I often see important sentencing scholarship on SSRN months before it appears in print (and I'm on an SSRN advisory board).  I am especially grateful I can share with readers what I find on SSRN (unlike some stuff I find/access via other on-line sources/collections).

However, the counting features at SSRN provides another means to rank academics, and a recent emphasis on SSRN download rankings can have a pernicious effect (as Jeff Harrison notes here at MoneyLaw).  Candidly, I admit to have a self-serving reason for being troubled by rankings of SSRN download counts: I typically provide direct access to my scholarship on this blog before sending it to SSRN.  I fear that if SSRN download counts become a key currency in the academy, scholars will be incentivized to spend more time focused on how to generate SSRN downloads than on creating and disseminating scholarly ideas.

I raise these issues because, as Paul Caron and others have noted, Brian Leiter's most recent SSRN download calculations has stirred up a bit of controversy while indirectly spotlighting the concerns about putting too much stock in download counts.

March 17, 2007 at 09:39 PM | Permalink

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Comments

I think the whole idea of ssrn downloads as a measure of anything is ridiculous. What does that prove? That some authors are more sophisticated at getting their documents downloaded? So what? That says nothing about the quality. And why, praytell, are law professors so obsessed with rankings? From USNWR to ssrn, the whole academy proclaims its hatred for these measures while waiting breathlessly for their latest results. It's pathetic.

Posted by: Steve | Mar 18, 2007 11:06:16 AM

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