Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Extending Leiter-Sisk Citation Counts To Interdisciplinary Scholarship

J. B. Ruhl, Michael P. Vandenbergh & Sarah Dunaway (Vanderbilt), Total Scholarly Impact: Law Professor Citations in Non-Law Journals, 69 J. Legal Educ. 772 (2020):

This Article provides the first ranking of legal scholars and law faculties based on citations in non-law journals. Applying the methods, as much as possible, of the widely used Leiter-Sisk “Scholarly Impact Score,” which includes only citations in law publications, we calculate a “Interdisciplinary Scholarly Impact Score” from the non-law citations over a five-year period (2012-2018) to the work of tenured law faculty published in that period in non-law journals. We also provide the weighted scores for law faculty at the top 25 law schools as ranked by the US News rankings, a school-by-school ranking, and lists of the top five faculty by non-law citations at each school and of the top fifty scholars overall.

IDR Final

The work of legal scholars outside of law journals is not trivial. Over 600 faculty members from the 25 schools in our cohort published almost 3,000 articles in non-law journals from 2012-2018, and those articles received close to 21,000 citations in non-law journals. The faculties that rank in the top ten based on weighted scores for Interdisciplinary Scholarly Impact using the Leiter-Sisk weighting method (2x the mean + the median) for all faculty with at least one publication in the study period are: Minnesota, Stanford, Yale, Duke, Cal-Irvine, Georgetown, Boston University, USC, Vanderbilt, and George Washington. The rankings, although subject to limitations similar to those faced by the law journal citation studies, demonstrate that it is possible with reasonable effort to include citations in both law and non-law journals in rankings of legal scholars and law school faculties.

Legal scholars are cited in non-law journals for the work they publish in legal journals and, in many cases, for work they publish in non-law journals. Counting only their citations in law journals thus underestimates both the impact of their legal scholarship and their interdisciplinary impact. Non-law journals are widely read by law and policy scholars, scientists who influence legal scholarship, and policymakers, and publications and citations of legal scholars in non-law journals can be an indication of work that has transcended the conceptual frameworks, assumptions, or methods of legal research. Publications and citations in non-law journals thus provide an additional indication of the influence of legal scholars. Citations in non-law journals also provide an indication of the influence of legal scholars on the overall scholarly enterprise outside of law, and accounting for non-law citations in legal rankings can also encourage interdisciplinary scholarship. Scholars from non-law fields have made important contributions to legal scholarship, but the reverse should also be the case. Acceptance by other fields of legal scholars’ proposed legal reforms can play an important role in determining their success, which is made more likely when legal scholars are included in the work of other disciplines.

For these reasons, we suggest in the Article that future evaluations of legal scholars’ work include both the Law Scholarly Impact Score and the new Interdisciplinary Scholarly Impact Score, or combine the two into a Total Scholarly Impact Score. Although there is some mismatch in the citation engine capacities and the time frames for our non-law journal citation study and the most recent Sisk et al. law journal citation study, a combination of the two can provide a rough approximation of the Total Scholarly Impact Score. The top ten law faculties based on this combined measure are: Yale, Harvard, Chicago, NYU, Stanford, Columbia, Duke, Cal-Berkeley, Pennsylvania, and Vanderbilt.

The databases used in the law and non-law studies and their search capacities differ, making it difficult to develop a citation study method that captures all of a faculty members’ law and non-law publications and all citations to them in defined time frames. We are working to improve the non-law citation study database and search capacity.

Following an introduction to the project, in Part I we discuss why accounting for legal scholars’ non-law publications and citations is important when assessing scholarly impact. Part II describes our methodology. Part III presents our results, and Part IV discusses the results.

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