Academia by Speculation: Debunking the Flawed Science behind the Claim that Wikipedia Influences Judges

Kevin Tobia (ed.), Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming

20 Pages Posted: 1 May 2023

See all articles by Tara Dunne

Tara Dunne

Irish Courts Service

Rebecca Halpin

Irish Courts Service

Richard Humphreys

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

Niamh McCormack

Courts Service of Ireland

Bernard O'Connor

Irish Courts Service

Milo O'Shaughnessy

Irish Courts Service

James Watson

Irish Courts Service

Date Written: April 18, 2023

Abstract

Thompson et al (2022) have postulated that Irish court cases that have been made the subject of Wikipedia articles are cited more frequently as a result, specifically by the High Court. They attribute some of this alleged increase in citation to direct consultation of Wikipedia by Irish judges. The evidence we examined supports the conclusion that Wikipedia has no material effect on the citation of cases by Irish judges in judgments, and that the vast majority of citations are attributable to the written and oral submissions of the parties and to materials referred to in such submissions. The alleged textual similarity between judgments and Wikipedia does not stand up to scrutiny. We conclude that the conclusions of the original paper are unreliable, because the paper’s assumptions and understandings of judgment production are palpably flawed, its conclusions are speculative and inconsistent with objective facts, its methodology is clearly defective, and its authors’ interpretations are unsustainable. We consider that the original paper should now be regarded as discredited and should either be retracted, rejected for publication or be required to be subjected to major revision.

Keywords: Wikipedia, judges, Ireland, scientific method, bad science, statistics, judgments

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Dunne, Tara and Halpin, Rebecca and Humphreys, Richard and McCormack, Niamh and O' Connor, Bernard and O'Shaughnessy, Milo and Watson, James, Academia by Speculation: Debunking the Flawed Science behind the Claim that Wikipedia Influences Judges (April 18, 2023). Kevin Tobia (ed.), Cambridge Handbook of Experimental Jurisprudence (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4365219 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4365219

Tara Dunne

Irish Courts Service ( email )

Ireland

Rebecca Halpin

Irish Courts Service ( email )

Richard Humphreys (Contact Author)

Institute of Advanced Legal Studies

Charles Clore House
17 Russell Square
London, WC1B 5DR
United Kingdom

Niamh McCormack

Courts Service of Ireland ( email )

Ireland

Bernard O' Connor

Irish Courts Service ( email )

Milo O'Shaughnessy

Irish Courts Service ( email )

Ireland

James Watson

Irish Courts Service ( email )

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