Write on International Law? You Don’t Count.

by Kevin Jon Heller

The legal blogosphere is all abuzz about a new study of faculty productivity at law schools outside the US News top 50.  Here, according to the study, are the top 10: San Diego, Cardozo, Florida State, Richmond, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Chicago-Kent, Missouri, UNLV, and Brooklyn.

Some bloggers — see here and here, for example — think the study is a useful gauge of a law school’s scholarly culture. Maybe that’s true for some fields, but the study simply reaffirms the marginalization of international law in the American legal academy.  According to the study, for example, international law professors are only productive if they publish in the main law review of an American law school or in the international law journals at Harvard and Virginia (both of which are excellent, of course).  Publish with the American Journal of International Law, the Yale Journal of International Law, or the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law?  You’re Jack Nicholson in The Shining.  And don’t even think about those damn peer-reviewed foreign law journals, like the European Journal of International Law, the Journal of International Criminal Justice, or the Journal of International Economic Law.  Don’t you have anything better to do, like building your World of Warcraft character?

It’s also worth noting that the study awards extra points for length — “0 points for articles under 6 pages; 1 point for articles 6-20 pages in length; 2 points for articles 21-50 pages in length; and 3 points for articles exceeding 50 pages.”  So whatever you do, make sure to pad your articles as much as humanly possible. If you don’t, how can you consider yourself productive?  Sure, many of the top international law journals — especially those ones in Europe that don’t matter — want you to limit your articles to under 12,000 words.  But that’s just because Europeans don’t value hard work like the Americans do.

http://opiniojuris.org/2008/09/11/write-on-international-law-you-dont-count/

8 Responses

  1. Perhaps a 100+ page article on possible international law coordination regarding gold-selling activities and the prevention thereof in World of Warcraft is your ticket to higher “productivity.”

    I’d think being one of the most “productive” law professors in the field while spending 5 hours a day in your office playing video games would most certainly be something to brag about, if only to effect change to the system.

  2. As someone who is publishing in and on the editorial committee of one of those “foreign” journals, I must say that the peer review system appears to create a substantially better product.  Perhaps quality is lost on the footnote format.  Other than that, it is a good quality control check and tends to increase the academic rigor.  I only wish that we tended toward more peer reviewed legal journals in the US.  We would then need someone to edit them…which of course would interfere with that individual’s scholarly productivity and World of Warcraft accomplishments.

  3. ‘Rankings’ like this are incredibly frustrating, especially for those of us who are based ourside of the US and who put our articles through extremely rigorous peer review. Rankings based on ‘citation counts’ are also frustrating, given the apparent practice among North Americans by which non-US journal are practically never cited (for example, most people on this side of the pond would see the Modern Law Review as one of the most prestigious places to publish, but it’s barely credited in the US!!). You’re right to note the disproportionate impact of practices like this on international law scholars as well as non-US scholars. As for not counting the AJIL….well that, quite simply, is bonkers and just backs up my personal view that rankings are largely tosh. But that’s a pretty European view on this!! ;-)

  4. As an IL  instructor at a law school in Turkey, I am appalled that those preparing the rankings were so ignorant about the journals, which really count in the small world of IL academia.
     That AJIL, the Yale Journal of International Law, the Columbia Journal of Transnational Law were excluded is like Christianity without having the good book for the sheeps.
     I would be inclined to add EJIL (Leiden etc..too) to this short-list, but is it not only natural for Americans to overlook or plainly ignore things that are from other cultures?

  5. Guneysu,

    Agreed, especially about the overlooking part. But come on, what were they thinking?  The word “American” is right in the title of AJIL!

  6. Amazing that Brian Leiter – the self-anointed rankings guru – would cavalierly overlook such glaring errors in the study.

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