Measuring Scholarly Impact in Law
41 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2021 Last revised: 20 May 2022
Date Written: October 8, 2021
In February 2019, U.S. News & World Report announced a proposal to use HeinOnline data to publish a scholarly impact ranking of law schools. As a result, interest in using scholarly metrics to quantitatively assess legal scholarship soared. Legal scholars debated several issues, including: the concept of evaluating scholarly impact through citation metrics; the ramifications of publishing this information alongside the highly criticized, but undeniably influential, U.S. News law school rankings; the optimal procedures for creating such a ranking; the rationale underlying the decisions involved in establishing a methodology; and HeinOnline’s available content and metrics. The concerns raised ultimately led U.S. News to abandon its planned ranking in summer 2021, two and a half years after its initial announcement. This article considers the views legal scholars expressed regarding the proposed ranking, contextualizing these ideas within broader principles of bibliometric analyses. It argues that although the U.S. News proposal died, legal bibliometric studies will persist and the academy should develop standards for the responsible creation and use of scholarly impact analyses.
Keywords: bibliometrics, citation analysis, citation metrics, HeinOnline, h-index, law schools, legal publishing, legal scholarship, rankings, scholarly impact, scholarly integrity, U.S. News & World Report,
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