Law Review’s Thin Filter and Law’s Low Eigenfactor
posted by Lawrence Cunningham
What’s your Eigenfactor? Scholars can find out now by looking at their scholarship page on the Social Science Research Network. Since inception a decade ago, SSRN ranks scholars by downloads; in the past few years, it refined that coarse measure using a separate list of citations, but only to other papers in SSRN. Now comes the eigenfactor, an integrated metric of scholarly influence.
This will be an interesting addition to the dashboard data used in studies of scholarly influence . All these figures, old and new, are endlessly contestable. The new figure adds a new ranking column which, naturally, differs from the downloads or citations columns.
Often, the difference is of limited significance: scholars with high downloads often have high citations and now have high Eigenfactors. But sometimes the differences are wild: there are people who rank at the top of downloads but lack many citations at all. A few of those still have an impressive Eigenfactor rank, but most tumble way down the ladder.
More striking is how the rank differences among these columns are less pronounced among economists and finance professors, as a cohort, compared to law professors, as a group. Based on an impressionistic skimming of the columns for the first few hundred, there’s greater stickiness among non-law profs than among law profs.
Economsits with high downloads still tend to have high Eigenfactors and vice versa; for law profs, though, other than the download leader, Lucian Bebchuk, even those with the highest downloads (ranked in the single or double digits), bounce way down the Eigenfactor rankings into the 200s, 1000s, 5000s or deeper.
Many theories appear. Mine attributes this to the student-gatekeeping function at law reviews. Nearly every piece of legal scholarship gets posted and published because the selection process is modest; the filter comes in citation practice. The filter in other social sciences is extremely tough ahead of publishing and posting; the practice of citation isn’t much of a filter at all.
There may be other reasons for this impressionistic difference too. Perhaps legal scholarship just isn’t as hot out there in the networks that Eigenfactor captures, compared to economic and financial scholarship. But, no, that doesn’t seem right, does it?