Paul L. Caron
Dean


Friday, February 15, 2008

Citation Count Rankings and the Presidential Campaign

In a comment on David Bernstein's post on Barack Obama's tenure as President of the Harvard Law Review for Volume 104, LawStatMan reports that the volume "has been cited [by law reviews] at the lowest rate of any volume published over the past twenty years" -- 170/year v. 262/year for vols. 101-13, 105-18.  The full stats are available here.  Although some have siezed on this data to argue that Obama was "a lousy president of the Harvard Law Review," I agree with Mitch Rubinstein that "the amount of times a volume Obama edited is totally irrelevant to his Presidential bid. It says nothing about his qualifications to be President. It also says nothing about his ability to be a lawyer or law professor."

But I take issue with Mtich's further comment that "an editor does not control the quality of articles he was given that year" -- it seems to me that to the extent citation counts tell us anything about a law review's performance, to properly measure Obama's tenure as President of the Harvard Law Review, one would have to distinguish between those issues of volume 104 that contained articles chosen by his predecessors and those issues of volumes 104 and 105 that contained articles chosen by Obama and his articles editor team.

Update:  Al Brophy has more on The Faculty Lounge.

https://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2008/02/citation-count.html

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Comments

While this should be a non-issue, I suspect that it won't be. The media has already devoted an bizzare amount of coverage to Obama's time at Harvard and the Law Review. It can't exactly walk away from it.

Posted by: Montie | Feb 16, 2008 8:27:47 AM

Did Obama have anything to do with the selection of articles when he was president? At my law review the EIC has absolutely no input into this; it's all done by the articles and essays editors. Moreover, the articles and essays editors are selected by the previous board, so the EIC has nothing to do with selecting them, either. In other words, at my law review, the EIC would have absolutely zero impact on citation count.

Posted by: xzvxvcx | Feb 22, 2008 4:27:41 AM

On a student-edited journal the EIC (or a designee of hers) should be choosing all of the articles. Journals that are farmed out to law schools by the ABA are different. Student editors on the Tax Lawyer, for example, are really just foremen for a gang of cite-checkers. The ABA tax section force-feeds them articles. But most journals give complete control over content to the elected leadership.

Posted by: B.O. didn't choose well | Feb 22, 2008 8:42:15 AM