A New Inclusive Scholar Rank

22 Pages Posted: 10 Aug 2023 Last revised: 16 Jan 2024

See all articles by Rob Willey

Rob Willey

George Mason University - George Mason University Law Library; George Mason University

Melanie Knapp

George Mason University Law Library

Ashley Matthews

George Mason University Law Library

Date Written: August 9, 2023

Abstract

For a variety of reasons, most existing legal scholarship ranking systems fail to identify the authors who are currently producing the most impactful scholarship. Most current ranks also rely on a methodology that minimizes the impact of women and other time-limited groups. Here, we present a more current and inclusive ranking.

We previously authored a paper that provides a detailed discussion of the issues with current ranking systems and why our new ranking methodology should produce more up-to-date results and open the door to underrepresented groups. To quickly summarize our findings, most current ranking systems look at citations to all-time publications. This typically means that ranking well requires thirty to forty years of nearly continuous scholarly output. Women tend to have less time to write than men and take more career breaks. Consequently, women average fewer articles over the course of their careers than their male peers. Relying on all-time publications exacerbates this publishing gap and results in a lower-than-expected representation of women in existing rankings, especially at the upper end. Looking at all-time publications also prevents existing rankings from surfacing the current top scholars: because all articles a scholar has ever authored count towards their rank, papers authored decades ago are factored in and can play a significant role in where an author ranks today. So, while some authors who perform well in existing rankings are still producing scholarship, others rank solely or primarily based on their prior work.

Our ranking methodology addresses both the recency and inclusion issues by drastically reducing the age of articles it includes. Rather than considering all articles an author has ever produced (a range of 30–40 years for some), we limit the range to a three-year period of recent articles. This means that authors rank based solely on their recent output. By reducing the period considered, we also limit the impact of the publication gap and eliminate the requirement that a scholar have an unblemished career of consistent output to rank well. This opens the door for more women, attorneys, librarians, people with health issues, and other time-limited groups or those who have significant publishing gaps.

Of course, relying on a smaller dataset for our ranking will mean more volatility year-to-year and some years will be more representative than others. However, this year’s ranking demonstrates the promise of our methodology. It includes a higher percentage of women and a diverse range of professions.

Additionally, we do believe that other existing rankings have value and, in some cases, should continue to exist as they have for years. For example, Fred Shapiro’s all-time ranking provides an excellent picture of the most-cited legal scholars of all time. Our ranking can serve as a complement to Shapiro’s (and similar rankings) by providing a new data point not currently presented in any existing rankings.

We anticipate that the ranking will be of most interest to readers, so, after briefly laying out our methodology, we share the ranking. Our first ranking uses a straight count of citations to articles over a set period. To show the impact of co-authorship, we created a sub ranking that demonstrates how co-authors can impact results. We then discuss some of the most interesting results of our ranking and add additional context.

Keywords: legal scholarship, law school rankings, legal rankings, scholar rank, h-index, citations, gender gap, inclusion, tenure

JEL Classification: K00, K1, K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Willey, Rob and Knapp, Melanie and Matthews, Ashley, A New Inclusive Scholar Rank (August 9, 2023). Women's Rights Law Reporter, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4536791 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4536791

Rob Willey (Contact Author)

George Mason University - George Mason University Law Library ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

George Mason University ( email )

4400 University Drive
Fairfax, VA 22030
United States

Melanie Knapp

George Mason University Law Library ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
(703) 993-8103 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.gmu.edu/library/

Ashley Matthews

George Mason University Law Library ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.law.gmu.edu/library/

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