Harvard Law School's Petrie-Flom Center announces its latest venture: a new blog, Bill of Health. I'm happy to say that I am among Bill of Health's large and diverse roster of bloggers, and will be cross-posting relevant content both here and there.
From the press release:
Our goal is to provide a one-stop shop for readers interested in news,
commentary, and scholarship in the fields of health law policy,
biotechnology, and bioethics. You can expect to find regularly updated
posts reacting to current events, testing out new scholarly ideas,
reviewing the latest books, and announcing conferences, events, and job
openings. We also hope to cultivate a strong community of commenters,
so that the blog becomes an interactive discussion forum.
A widely collaborative effort, Bill of Health
features content from Petrie-Flom affiliates, as well as leading
experts from Harvard and beyond. Institutional collaborators include HealthLawProfs Blog, the Yale Interdisciplinary Center for Bioethics, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Public Health Law Research program at Temple. We've also lined up a stellar cast of bloggers so far, including: Tom Baker, Cansu Canca, Arthur Caplan, Daniel Carpenter, Amitabh Chandra, Greg Curfman, Einer Elhauge, Richard Epstein, Nir Eyal, Michele Goodwin, Rebecca Haffajee, Russell Korobkin, Greg Koski, Katie Kraschel, Stephen Latham, Ted Marmor, Max Mehlman, Michelle Meyer, Abby Moncrieff, Efthimios Parasidis, Wendy Parmet, Frank Pasquale, Suzanne Rivera, Al Roth, Ted Ruger, Bill Sage, Laura Stark, Erin Talati, Nicolas Terry, Katharine Van Tassel, and Daniel Vorhaus. In
addition, we'll be joined by some great guest bloggers in the coming
months, including Mark Hall, Allison Hoffman, Adam Kolber, Jon Kolstad,
Kristin Madison, Anup Malani, Arti Rai, Annette Rid, Chris Robertson,
Nadia Sawicki, Seema Shah, Talha Syed, Dan Wikler, and Susan Wolf, as
well as a several Petrie-Flom graduate student affiliates. Read more
about our team here.
The Bill of Health bloggers will be introduced in batches in the coming days. We hope you'll visit and comment often.
The role of blogging in legal academia has been much debated. Some view the discipline as the antithesis of scholarship, a medium that allows faculty to broadcast ignorant or confused opinions. Others have viewed blogging by law faculty more favorably, focusing on the approach as a means of promoting traditional scholarship.
While the debate has been ongoing, the matter has largely been resolved by actual practice. In the realm of legal scholarship, faculty law blogs are a disruptive innovation. Disruptive innovation usually connotes the introduction of a new technology that eventually destabilizes an existing market. Often, the technology, when introduced, is inferior and not perceived as a threat. Over time, however, the technology improves and migrates from a market niche and becomes the reigning standard.
Law faculty blogs arose in a state of nature and were often perceived as inferior technology used by faculty to convey random, often personal, views. Over time, however, a recognized class of law faculty blogs emerged, with at least one having been cited 45 times in court opinions and another having been cited by over 700 times in assorted legal publications. Widely read and regularly cited, they offered a superior method for the rapid dissemination of some types of legal analysis and facilitate the introduction of ideas into an ongoing debate. They also provide a form of intermediation that discourages low quality posts.
Law faculty blogs provide a form of scholarship that fills a gap left by traditional law reviews. Law faculty blogs overcome the slow publication process and dense analysis that often prevents traditional law review articles from playing a role in an ongoing debate. Said another way, law faculty blogs have altered the continuum of legal scholarship and reduced the role of traditional law reviews. Efforts by law reviews to fight back through the implementation of online supplements has so far failed.
Law faculty blogs have also had a disruptive impact on the determination of faculty reputation. Blogging allows law professors to route around the traditional indicia of reputation such as the frequency of publication in elite law journals. Providing a “prominence” dividend, faculty who blog are able to advertise their expertise through substantive posts and become better known to practitioners, academics and decision makers. This type of reputational benefit can be seen from the correlation between sustained blogging and SSRN downloads.
Blogging can also disrupt law school rankings. With reputation the single largest component in the rankings, law blogging can be used by some law schools to increase name recognition in a cost effective manner. In other cases, blogging can increase awareness of a law school’s faculty, elevating the overall reputation of the institution. Both can improve a law school’s relative rank.
Last month my colleague at the University of Alabama Dan Joyner started the Arms Control Blog. The blogging team in addition to Dan is: Marco Roscini, University of Westminster Faculty of Law; Pierre-Emmanuel Dupont, Rochelois, Besins & Associe; Zeray Yihdego, Oxford Brookes University Faculty of Law; Eric Myjer, University of Utrecht Faculty of Law; David Fidler, University of Indiana School of Law; Barry Kellman, Depaul University College of Law; Dieter Fleck, Formerly of the German Ministry of Defense; and James Fry, University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law.
He writes in the areas of banking, bankruptcy, corporate, and administrative law, with a focus on the law, economics, and history of banking and bank regulation, financial and fiscal crises, debt regulation, central banking and the Federal Reserve, and corporate governance for banks and other financial institutions.
Conti-Brown graduated from Harvard College, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, and Stanford Law School, and clerked for the Hon. Gerard E. Lynch on the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Conti-Brown will be a PhD candidate in history at Princeton University beginning in 2013, where he plans to focus on economic and financial history and write a dissertation on the financial, intellectual, and political origins of the Federal Reserve System.
One thing that I'd be interested in seeing is the data re-ordered from school name to the U.S. News peer assessment rank of the school; I think that would convey well -- and easily -- how the distribution of bloggers are distributed. There's a ton of interesting data that one could add to this study -- like age, time in the academy, and areas of teaching and research for bloggers. I continue to be mightily interested in the phenomon of blogging and continue to wonder why people blog. I think this data can really help us get at some interesting issues.
Blogging by law faculty has been going on for more than a decade. During that period, law faculty blogs have become widespread. They have also been increasing used as authority in law review articles and court decisions. The attached paper sets out the empirical data that shows who, as of May/June 2012, is actually blogging at various law schools. This is a notoriously difficult data set to create since there is no single list of law faculty blogs. Moreover, some faculty blog at non-faculty blogs.
The data in this document includes a breakdown of the number of law faculty bloggers by law school. Interestingly, most law faculty bloggers are at law schools outside the top 50 as ranked by US News. In addition, the data includes the number of citations for law blogs in both law reviews and court opinions. One law faculty blog has over 700 citations in law reviews. Another has over 40 citations in cases.
Finally, the data includes a list of US law faculty in the top 200 of SSRN downloads for May 2012. The list includes any blogging affiliation of these faculty. The data shows that for faculty in the list but outside the top 10 law schools (based upon the ranking created by US News) many of them blog, suggesting that there is a correlation between blogging and SSRN downloads.
There are a couple of things that faculty lounge readers will find of great interest. Jay provides a census of law professors bloggers -- it's an interesting companion to Bridget's twitter census. Someone should certainly compare those two lists -- and I'd observe that Jay has a very nice table organized by U.S. News rank of how many people at each school are blogging (which you might be interested in comparing to my re-ranking of Bridget's list of law professor twitterers). He reports that there are 19 bloggers at top 10 schools; 40 at schools ranked 11-25; 49 at schools ranked 26-50; and 90 at schools ranked 51-100. If you take the top 50 schools together there are 108 bloggers. (There's an obvious question abou the number of faculty at those levels; my guess is the higher ranked schools have substantially more faculty than the lower ranked, but I'm not sure of the proportions.) I'd be interested in speculation on the meaning of this.
Jay also provides a table ranking blogs by number of citations in court opinions and in law journals. (One side note here -- many thanks to the readers who've cited discussions here at thefacultylounge.org in your scholarship! I suppose I need to acknowledge that we're not doing as well in citations as we do in readership -- we're ranked in the 40s in terms of citations, but I think in the teens these days on readership.)
What Jay doesn't provide here is a list of how much individual bloggers are cited; and that I think would be a nice point of comparison. One question that I've talked over with both Krawiec and Filler is the problem of trying to figure out how much blogging affects citations. (One not great measure is citations to bloggers vs. citations to non-bloggers on their faculty/on other similarly-ranked faculties in their age/experience range.) I think one reason many people blog is to get increased attention for scholarship that appears in some form other than a blog and I'd be curious to know how much -- if at all -- blogging is helpful in that regard. Who knows, maybe one of these days I need to revise my rather pessimistic view of blogging.
Given the criticisms in the comments to Bridget Crawford's post on the law professor Twitter census, I think it might be worth it to look a little more deeply at the issue of law professor "tweeters." As I indicated in the comments on Sunday afternoon, I'm coming late to the issue of Twitter. I wondered why a law professor would tweet? Michelle Meyer had some apt observations about its importance in the comments.
I thought Bridget's census might be worth a little more inspection, in terms of the question: who's tweeting? There are 139 tweeting professors identified as of June 8th by Bridget Crawford after removing 7 professors at schools outside the U.S. and one at UC-Irvine, which U.S. News has not yet ranked. The professors are on the law faculties of 92 schools in the United States. Many professors are the sole known tweeter on their faculty, but one school (Pace) has five, Pepperdine and SMU each have four, and Chicago, Drexel, Harvard, Southern Illinois, and St. Louis University each have three. Focusing now on the ranks of schools of the 121 professors at U.S. News “top schools” (ranks published in March 2012): The range of school ranks is represented from 1 through 145, with a median rank of 58.0 and a mean of 65.4 (SD = 44.3). Schools of 25% of professors in this group had a rank between 1 and 26, and schools of another 25% had ranks between 101 and 145. Eighteen other professors are at U.S. News “second tier” schools, whose ranks were not published. They are at 14 different schools. One thing is clear: law professors at schools throughout the U.S. News spectrum are tweetting.
I'm guessing that tweeting is about getting information out, building a community, and -- ultimately -- a reputation. We could debate whether faculty are entitled to build their personal reputation on the law school's budget. But I think most people think they are not only entitled to but expected to help build the institution's reputation. Student reliance on U.S. News suggests that strong reputation is something students want. As we have seen repeatedly and in many contexts, school reputations are important.
At right is a bar graph that shows the distribution of law professor tweeters according to their schools' U.S. News ranking.
The Curator’s Code is an effort to keep this whimsical rabbit hole [of the Internet] open by honoring discovery through an actionable code of ethics — first, understanding why attribution matters, and then, implementing it across the web in a codified common standard, doing for attribution of discovery what Creative Commons has done for image attribution. * * *
ᔥ stands for “via” and signifies a direct link of discovery, to be used when you simply repost a piece of content you found elsewhere, with little or no modification or addition. * * *
↬ stands for the common “HT” or “hat tip,” signifying an indirect link of discovery, to be used for content you significantly modify or expand upon compared to your source, for story leads, or for indirect inspiration encountered elsewhere that led you to create your own original content.
My anectodal impression is that most legal bloggers are fairly good at indicating sources of direct discoveries (those that merit ᔥ, such as news stories) via hyperlinks, but that we (myself included) could improve efforts to display sources for our leads (i.e., those that merit ↬, such as when we discover the source for our own post through another blogger's post). The Curator's Code is making those attributions easier with a bookmarklet (here) that keeps the characters handy, although I admit I'm not 100% sure how to use them yet.
In order to promote the echo chamber effect, and insure lots of folks join us, I want to reiterate Dan Markel's post and remind everyone of the law prof happy hour - hosted by Prawfs, Co-op, and the Faculty Lounge - tomorrow night, January 5, 2012, from 9pm on. It'll be at Lillie's - 2915 Connecticut Ave. - a short walk north of the Marriott Wardman Park. Drexel Law is sponsoring the event (for the first while, at least) in celebration of receiving full ABA accreditation and possibly (if the vote goes well earlier tomorrow evening) membership in the AALS.
Welcome to The National Law Journal's Law School Review, which is an online forum examining the current state and future of legal education. We want to address the question, "Are law schools in crisis?" If the answer is yes, what are the most pressing problems and how should educators and regulators address them? If the answer is no, what is it that law schools are doing right? Is this enough to ensure their future viability? We have assembled a panel of experts to share their thoughts on the subject (see the roll call of contributors on the right), and we hope to create a robust dialogue and exchange of ideas.
The list of contributors includes William Henderson, Brian Tamanaha, Michael Olivas, and others.
That would be a great course! Dr. Michael Eric Dyson offers "Sociology of Hip-Hop — Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z” to Georgetown undergrads. (See the WaPo story here). Seems to me that there would be huge interest in a related course in a law school. For inspiration, peruse HipHopLaw.com for a few minutes. The blogging team there posts regularly about the intersections of hip hop and intellectual property, contracts, and political theory, among other topics.
Paul Caron runs all the numbers to determine which blogs get the most traffic. The Faculty Lounge continues its upward trend, garnering a 34% increase in the number of visitors this year as compared to the prior year. By the way, we're about to hit 3 million page views in the next couple of weeks. It's time to get a new coffeemaker in the Lounge!
Most of us are able to keep abreast of our fields, but it is increasingly hard to know what we should be reading in related areas. It is nearly impossible to situate oneself in other fields that may be of interest but cannot be the major focus of our attention.
A small number of major law journals once served as the gatekeepers of legitimacy and, in so doing, signaled what was important * * * * Great articles [now] appear in relatively obscure places. (And odd things sometimes find their way into major journals.) Plus, legal publishing has been both fragmented and democratized: specialty journals, faculty peer reviewed journals, interdisciplinary journals, all now play important roles in the intellectual ecology. * * * *
Jotwell will help fill that gap. We will not be afraid to be laudatory, nor will we give points for scoring them. Rather, we will challenge ourselves and our colleagues to share their wisdom and be generous with their praise. We will be positive without apology.
I wanted to follow up on the very clever study by David McKenzie and Berk Ozler about blogging impact that I mentioned yesterday. The authors also employ several methods to gauge the impact of blogging on the academic reputation of the blogger and of her institution, and on attitudes of readers. The authors conclude:
Using a variety of data sources and empirical techniques, we feel we have provided quantitative evidence that economic blogs are doing more than just providing a new source of procrastination for writers and readers. To our knowledge, these findings are the first quantitative evidence to show that blogs are having some impacts. There are large impacts on dissemination of research; significant benefits in terms of the bloggers becoming better known and more respected within the profession; positive spillover effects for the bloggers’ institutions; and some evidence from our experiment that they may influence attitudes and knowledge among their readers. Blogs potentially have many impacts, and we are only measuring some of them, but the evidence we have suggests economics blogs are playing an important role in the profession.
Let’s assume for now that these results are generalizable, not only beyond the specific blogs studied, but to blogs in other disciplines, such as . . . oh, I don’t know . . . let’s say law, for example. The question is: if blogging is so great for one’s academic reputation, influence, and institution, why doesn’t everyone blog? Why don’t schools provide incentives for blogging?
Believe it or not, I have already done an informal poll of academics from both law and other disciplines on this question. Okay, it’s not particularly representative, since they’re just friends with whom I have dinner and substantial quantities of wine with some regularity. Usually, the discussion runs something like this:
Me (slurred and excited): Blogging is GREAT! Why doesn’t EVERYONE blog??
They (with eye roll and mumble): Some people are serious and don’t have time for Internet nonsense.
What explains this disconnect between bloggers, nearly all of whom are convinced that their “nonsense” provides substantial professional benefits for themselves, their institutions, and the profession as a whole, and regular academics? There are a few possibilities. Maybe Lounge readers can come up with more.
(1) Bloggers are delusional.
Bloggers convince themselves that their blogging is something more than a self-indulgent waste of time, so that they can continue to do it without feeling guilty. My spouse would certainly opt for this one. But the McKenzie and Ozler study gives me hope that this is not fully the case, though I still suspect that many bloggers – such as, oh I don’t know, me – overestimate the benefits of blogging so as to feel justified in the large amounts of time they dedicate to it.
If David’s numbers reflect the reality, and I believe they do, why do not more economists blog? I believe it is because they can’t, at least not without embarrassing themselves rather quickly, even if they are smart and very good economists. It’s simply a different set of skills.
That one makes sense too. We all know good scholars who are terrible bloggers and great bloggers who are mediocre scholars.
But, wouldn’t Al say that few bloggers have the self-awareness to know whether they’re making themselves look like fools? The “not everyone is good at it” explanation assumes a fair amount of honest self-assessment that many of us seem to lack in other contexts (and might bloggers – who, by definition, assume that everyone must be interested in their random thoughts – be especially prone to such mistakes?)
(3) Blogging needs a CBA.
Perhaps blogging does provide academic benefits, in the form of enhanced reputation, influence, and the like, but there are other more cost-effective methods for generating such benefits. Some people, I am told, actually talk to others with similar subject matter interests face-to-face. Or even by telephone if they don’t live in the same vicinity.
And I guess that still leaves a lot of open questions. Does it matter what type of blogging you do? Some folks blog solely on substance. Others are interested in jokes, academic gossip, job advice, and all sorts of stuff. Does it matter whether you’re on one of the big popular blogs, like Volokh, versus a smaller blog read only by legal academics (or even only by legal academics with a particular subject-matter interest)? And do special benefits accrue only to regular bloggers? Some people guest blog only when they have something particular to say (or are infrequent perma-bloggers). Do frequency and/or longevity matter?
Okay, I’ve wasted enough time on professional reputation enhancement for one day. Presumably all of these supposed benefits from blogging only flow to those also doing real work.
The impact of a Freakonomics blog post about a paper, as measured by abstract views and download statistics from Research Papers in Economics (RePEc):
Nearly as impactful as a Faculty Lounge mention.
The authors build a database of 94 papers linked to on 6 blogs: Aid Watch (before it ended), Chris Blattman, Economix (New York Times), Marginal Revolution, Freakonomics, and Paul Krugman. The results?
Blogging about a paper causes a large increase in the number of abstract views and downloads in the same month . . .
These increases are massive compared to the typical abstract views and downloads these papers get- one blog post in Freakonomics is equivalent to 3 years of abstract views! However, only a minority of readers click through – we estimate 1-2% of readers of the more popular blogs click on the links to view the abstracts . . .
A blogger identifying himself only as “a tenured mid-career faculty member at a Tier One school” has taken his insider’s view of the “law school scam” on-line. Complaints include that law professors are:
The typical professor teaches the same classes year after year. Not only that -- he uses the same materials year after year. I’m not going to bother to count -- this is law school after all, and we don’t do empirical research -- but I bet that more than half the cases I teach in my required first-year course were cases I first read as a 1L 25 years ago. After all I use the same casebook my professor used. I even repeat some of his better jokes (thanks Bill).
Some professors who have taught exactly the same classes for a decade or two do essentially no preparation any more. They are like the most burnt out teachers at your high school, if you went, as I did, to a middling-quality public school. But with this difference: the most burnt-out teachers at your high school still had to stick around at work for seven or eight hours a day. Also, they didn't get paid $200,000 (or even quite a bit more) per year. And needless to say you didn't have pay $50,000 a year for the privilege of being exposed to their talents.
Yes there are so many excuses -- I hear them every day (or would if I ever saw my co-workers in the office in the summer. Oh yes they're "working at home." More on that soon . . .
And more. This Inside Higher Ed piece on the matter is accompanied by a comments section in which lawyers lambast law profs as useless to the legal profession and other academics argue our uselessness to the academe.
Luckily my excessively high salary and “job” of leisure are sufficient to mostly insulate me from feelings of insecurity or self-doubt.