Tuesday, September 01, 2015


My last post or at least the last I can foresee about the silly process of checking cites to determine which scholars or which schools have the greatest impact. Some of this sums up what I have said before but I could not help but notice parallels to the other areas of law.  So here are some things that make simple cite counting maybe the worse way to determine impact.

1. One of the biggest mistakes cite counters do is ignore the inter-generational transfer problem. Suppose Professor Cage, now approaching retirement, does not want to work on the treatise he started 40 years ago. He finds and eager younger person who will be listed as editor or coauthor. Since Professor Cage's treatise is the "go to" source, it is cited frequently and now, in the later editions the citations are to someone whose actual contribution, and impact if any, are unknown. There is also the reverse. The old guy gets cites based on things he never thought of.

2. You've had a book out for a few years, say in the 3d edition. The publisher wants a 4th and although you could do it, why not take on a coauthor who will spruce it up a bit and maybe add a chapter. The coauthor is now routinely cited but for what? The answer: Every word in the book regardless of their origin and impact, if any.

3. You get a contract from a publisher (Hart would be likely) and under the contract you are to round up 30 other people to write short articles (or maybe just find 30 articles that already exist or let Hart find them for you) and out comes what you will refer to as "your book" and for which you will be cited but in a manner that reflects nothing about impact, if any.

4. Cite counters tend to leave things out, like judicial cites. I was surprised to see that WestLaw now has (an maybe always has had) listings of cites in documents filed with courts. So your article about post Toasties (a previously unknown cult of marshmallow worshipers who were cooped by Peep worshipers)   is cited by an actual lawyer. The interesting thing about those mundane cites is that you can bet the citer and the opposing attorney actually looked closely at the work. [Sorry, my mistake to bring this up. I realize it is rarely about real law.]

5. Where does monopolistic competition come in?   First that refers to market in  which goods are soled with minor differences. So you write an article on "unusual" or "antitrust standing" or what ever. The next article kind of overlaps a bit, and so does the next and after writing 3 of these sort of overlapping articles that are all based on a closed universe of sources you BOOM make it into a book. You are kind of an editor of your own book of readings. Sure you do not get cited for things you did not write and, yes, maybe it means reaching a slightly different and equally indifferent  audience but somehow this seems like citations for good marketing, not good thinking.

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