LSA Statement on US News’ Rejection of Scholarly Impact Metric

Earlier today, the Law & Society Association has issued a statement on U.S. News’ decision not to proceed with its proposal to add a measure of “scholarly impact” to its law school rankings.  LSA is pleased that the measure will not proceed.

The Law & Society Association was concerned with the implications for our members, many of whom write books, book chapters and peer-reviewed articles that appear in and are frequently cited in publications other than law reviews. For that reason, the scholarly impact of our members’ scholarship would not have been accurately represented in the proposed metric.

In addition, non-doctrinal and data- driven sociolegal scholarship ordinarily does not amass as many citations as constitutional or purely doctrinal articles do. Moreover, if law schools attempted to game the system to improve their rankings, as has happened with other U.S. News metrics, the intellectual, interdisciplinary, and racial diversity of law school faculties and the range of topics they choose to write on might have been negatively affected.

LSA thanked HeinOnline and ORCID for their efforts to improve the scholarly visibility of interdisciplinary scholarship, referencing a session on scholarly profiles by Sheila Rabun and me at the LSA 2020 virtual conference.

We here repeat the advice given at that panel: LSA members are advised to ensure that they have ORCID numbers and to be sure that this ID is associated with all their publications — for regardless of the decision that U.S. News recently made, securing credit for one’s writing via electronic searches can only increase in importance.

LSA also acknowledged law librarians’ efforts to raise concerns and to improve the accuracy of the proposed metric.

LSA was not alone in our effort to ensure the unbiasedness and soundness of the U.S. News rankings or to see the project cancelled if obstacles were too big to overcome. The Association is grateful for the extensive work of U.S. law librarians who were deeply engaged with U.S. News and Hein about the difficulties they discovered with the various proposed approaches to a legal scholarship ranking.