Thursday, September 10, 2020
Stephen Thomson (City University of Hong Kong), Letterhead Bias and the Demographics of Elite Journal Publications, 33 Harv. J. L. & Tech. 203 (2019):
This article is the result of the most extensive audit of U.S. law review articles ever undertaken. It presents and discusses the findings of an audit of articles published in the top fifty U.S. law reviews from 2014–2018 inclusive. Analyzing over 4,500 articles and the demographics of almost 6,000 authors, it demonstrates through hard data that: (i) letterhead bias is a real phenomenon; (ii) some journals have high rates of publishing their own faculty’s work, a phenomenon that tends to be worse in higher-ranked journals; (iii) overseas authors stand a very low probability of being published in a top fifty U.S. law review; (iv) there is no real correlation between a journal’s ranking and the extent to which it publishes practitioner-authored work; and (v) articles in more highly ranked journals have a greater tendency toward being co-authored.
These findings reveal some hard truths about the elite U.S. law review market, grounded in hard data, both for aspiring authors and editorial boards across the U.S.
They further question the integrity and credibility of the student-edited journal model and have profound implications including for hiring; promotion; tenure; performance appraisal; and the extent to which rankings, perceptions, and biases operate as surrogates for an informed assessment of merits. Institutions must do better to ensure quality journal scholarship and to protect student editors from conflicts of interest and self-serving faculty. The paper concludes that only the universal adoption of a fully blind article selection process can offer redemption.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage: