Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact or Fiction?

Ken Strutin, director of legal information services at the New York State Defenders Association, has an article in the September 27th issue of the New York Law Journal, “Shepardizing Science: Is an Article Fact of Fiction?,” calling for a need to create “forensic bibliometrics” tools, similar to law citators.

The author points out that “In the scientific publishing lexicon, three levels of caution, which resemble Shepard’s signals, are the most salient: Retraction, Expression of Concern and Correction.”

From the article:

   It was Frank Shepard’s methology that paved the way for Eugene Garfield’s creation of the Science Citation Index (SCI), and ultimately, the page ranking protocols used by Internet search engines. [footnote omitted]  Most legal opinions can be Shepardized, and along with a full court press of bibliometric analysis in multiple sources, this tool can provide a high level of quality assurance.  The same is not easily accomplished in the scientific disciplines.

   Aside from the tools already noted, quality control of scholarly literature would benefit from something resembling a Shepard’s for scientific research.  It would be a universal mechanism that flags retracted articles in peer review journals and treatises, in all formats and at all access points, clearing indicating which ones should not be cited or relied upon.

The article clearly sets out the reasons why “. . . an expert in the citation analysis of scientific literature can play a crucial role in litigation.”

Introducing and Integrating Free Internet Legal Research into the Classroom

“Introducing and Integrating Free Internet Legal Research into the Classroom”

University of Miami Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-05

JOOTAEK LEE, University of Miami – School of Law

The Global financial crisis has been discouraging legal researchers and practitioners from accessing high-cost databases.Many legal professionals and researchers are under financial pressures mainly because of the increased kinds and cost of subscription databases such as Westlaw and Lexis; thus, many legal professionals and researchers started considering free or less expensive internet resources for their research and classes. On the other hand, the number of these free or less expensive internet resources is increasing every year, and their coverage for legal sources is also expanded. Furthermore, just as the creation of a list of hypertext links to internet resources is not an easy task anymore because of the gigantic number of resources available, so simply providing created list to the law students will likewise irresponsibly confuse and intimidate them.

First, this article attempted to define internet legal research and to show the difficulty of distinguishing internet legal research from other online searches. Next, pros and cons of free or less expensive internet resources were discussed. Lastly, this article attempted to introduce and apply usability to various internet resources, criticizing Lexis and Westlaw by the principle of usability web-design.In conclusion, the necessity and prospective plan to establish evaluation standards for free internet resources including coverage, currency, accuracy, authority, appropriateness, and perspective will be explored

Source:  LSN: University of Miami School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper
Series Vol. 4 No. 2,  04/21/2010

Wikipedia in Court: When and How Citing Wikipedia and Other Consensus Websites is Appropriate

“Wikipedia in Court: When and How Citing Wikipedia and Other Consensus Websites is Appropriate”

HANNAH B. MURRAY, affiliation not provided to SSRN

JASON C. MILLER, Government of the United States of America – United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

Practitioners and courts are relying more and more on Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Hundreds of court opinions, including at least one from every federal circuit court, and thousands of law review articles cite Wikipedia. Some opinions have relied on Wikipedia for technical information, although others only turned to the consensus website for background information on minor points.

This practice has generated controversy, with newspapers, professors, practitioners, and judges weighing in. Wikipedia in Court examines the controversy and the history of Wikipedia in court opinions before proposing a framework to determine when it is appropriate and inappropriate to rely on Wikipedia for authority in legal writing. Given the inconsistency in the legal community’s use of Wikipedia, courts and practitioners will benefit from this framework.

 

Source:  LSN Legal Writing Vol. 4 No. 32,  12/02/2009

The (Nearly) Forgotten Early Empirical Legal Research

“The (Nearly) Forgotten Early Empirical Legal Research”

Minnesota Legal Studies Research Paper No. 09-26

HERBERT M. KRITZER, University of Minnesota Law School

The modern empirical legal studies movement has well-known antecedents in the law and society and law and economics traditions of the latter half of the 20th century. Less well known is the body of empirical research on legal phenomena from the period prior to World War II. This paper considers that earlier work with discussions of what accounts for the burst of such research in the 1920s and 30s, methodological and funding issues confronting that research, why the research seemed to come to an end in the latter part of the 1930s (to begin to reappear in the 1950s), and some of the continuities in findings between that research and more recent empirical research on law.

 

Source:  LSN Litigation & Procedure Vol. 10 No. 53,  07/30/2009

My need for a “focus assistant.”

Can technology offer us “continuous augmented awareness?”

An earlier post here, commenting upon an article a year ago in The Atlantic, asked, “Is Google making us stoopid?”  Now an article in the July / August 2009 issue of the same magazine asks, “Is Google actually making us smarter?”

The article, “Get Smart,” by Jamais Cascio, discusses how Twitter can help us move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one of “continuous augmented awareness.”  I’m a fan of Twitter but I find it hard to quickly sift through tweets about pancakes to the ones that provide truly valuable and timely information (not that pancakes aren’t important, but I use Twitter mainly for work).  Here’s what Mr. Cascio writes:

But imagine if social tools like Twitter had a way to learn what kinds of messages you pay attention to, and which ones you discard. Over time, the messages that you don’t really care about might start to fade in the display, while the ones that you do want to see could get brighter. Such attention filters–or focus assistants–are likely to become important parts of how we handle our daily lives. We’ll move from a world of “continuous partial attention” to one we might call “continuous augmented awareness.”

The article suggests that:

The trouble isn’t that we have too much information at our fingertips, but that our tools for managing it are still in their infancy.

Going Behind the Scenes of Empirical Legal Research

A new book crossed my desk today, Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices, and here’s its description from the publisher’s website (Cambridge University Press):

Conducting Law and Society Research: Reflections on Methods and Practices

Series: Cambridge Studies in Law and Society

Simon Halliday
University of Strathclyde

Patrick Schmidt
MacAlester College, Minnesota

Through interviews with many of the most noteworthy authors in law and society, Conducting Law and Society Research takes students and scholars behind the scenes of empirical scholarship, showing the messy reality of research methods. The challenges and the uncertainties, so often missing from research methods textbooks, are revealed in candid detail. These accessible and revealing conversations about the lived reality of classic projects will be a source of encouragement and inspiration to those embarking on empirical research, ranging across the full array of disciplines that contribute to law and society. For all of the ambiguities and challenges to the social “scientific” study of law, the reflections found in this book — collectively capturing a portrait of the field through the window of the research efforts — individually remind readers that “good research” displays not an absence of problems, but the care taken in negotiating them.

A very candid look at research methods from the leading scholars in the field – Approachable conversations appropriate for all levels, from students to scholars – Topics range very broadly across the leading approaches and speciality subjects in law and society

Contents
1. Beyond methods: law & society in action; 2. Stewart Macaulay and Non-Contractual Relations and Business (1963); 3. Robert Kagan and Regulatory Justice (1978); 4. Malcolm Feeley and The Process Is the Punishment (1979); 5. Lawrence Friedman and The Roots of Justice (1981); 6. John Heinz and Edward Laumann and Chicago Lawyers (1982); 7. Alan Paterson and The Law Lords (1982); 8. David Engel and The Oven Bird’s Song (1984); 9. Keith Hawkins and Environment and Enforcement (1984); 10. Carol Greenhouse and Praying for Justice (1986); 11. John Conley and William O’Barr and Rules versus Relationships (1990); 12. Sally Engle Merry and Getting Justice and Getting Even (1990); 13. Tom Tyler and Why People Obey the Law (1990); 14. Doreen McBarnet and Whiter than White Collar Crime (1991); 15. Gerald Rosenberg and The Hollow Hope (1991); 16. Michael McCann and Rights at Work (1994); 17. Austin Sarat & William Felstiner and Divorce Lawyers and Their Clients (1995); 18. Yves Dezalay and Bryant Garth and Dealing in Virtue (1996); 19. Patricia Ewick and Susan Silbey and The Common Place of Law (1998); 20. Hazel Genn and Paths to Justice (1999); 21. John Braithwaite and Peter Drahos and Global Business Regulation (2000); 22. John Hagan and Justice in the Balkans (2003); 23. Conclusion: “Research is a Messy Business” — An Archeology of the Craft of Socio-Legal Research – Herbert Kritzer.

 

And the book makes a good case for why PACER data should be free or at least less expensive for law schools:

From chapter 23, Conclusion: “Research is a Messy Business” — An Archeology of the Craft of Socio-Legal Research:

THE MESSIEST MESS IS THE RESEARCH PROCESS: COLLECTING ORIGINAL DATA

. . . Imagine that you want to study something about trials in federal court.  You could turn to the statistical reports published by the Administrative Office (AO) of the U.S. Courts and extract information from the Reports’ well-digested tables.  Or, you could obtain from the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) the case-level data reported to the AO and deposited with the ICPSR (these data form the basis for the published tables); you could then process these data to create whatever summaries you need.  Or, if you have adequate resources, you could access raw case files through the federal court’s Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER) system; you would then extract and code the information you want from raw case file data. . . .

Irish student’s Jarre wiki hoax dupes journalists

Irish student’s Jarre wiki hoax dupes journalists

Reuters
Thursday, May 7, 2009; 5:18 AM

“When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head,” Oscar-winning French composer Maurice Jarre once said, according to several newspapers reporting his death in March. However, the quotation was invented by an Irish student who posted it on the Wikipedia Web site in a hoax designed to show the dangers of relying too heavily on the Internet for information. The 22-year-old sociology and economics student at University College Dublin said he had expected blogs and perhaps small newspapers to use the quotes but did not believe major publications would rely on Wikipedia without further checks.

 

Source: BNA’s Internet Law News – 5/8/09

Case reversed for allowing Wikipedia entry as evidence

From the Examiner.com

Bergen judge reversed for allowing Wikipedia entry as evidence

By Jerry DeMarco

North Jersey Crime Examiner

A Bergen County judge mistakenly let a collection company lawyer cover a gap in evidence against a credit-card holder by using a Wikipedia page, a state appeals court has ruled.

. . .

“Such a malleable source of information is inherently unreliable and clearly not one whose accuracy cannot reasonably be questioned,” they added.

. . .

On the front lines of Twitter with founders Stone and Williams

From today’s Wall Street Journal (Saturday/Sunday, April 18 – 19, 2009, p. A11):

THE WEEKEND INTERVIEW with Evan Williams and Biz Stone / By Michael S. Malone

The Twitter Revolution

From the article:

“Under the guise of a fun communications tool, Twitter is building one of the world’s most valuable real-time information caches.”

Wikipedia’s Old-Fashioned Revolution

As one who eagerly waited for each new year book for our World Book set, and then set about diligently pasting in all of the update stickers, while eveyone else I knew was raving about Encarta, I was a bit slow to the online encyclopedia.  But as today’s Information Age column in the Wall Street Journal makes clear, Wikipedia’s underpinnings are based on traditional concepts of authority:

As Andrew Lih points out in his new book, “The Wikipedia Revolution: How a Bunch of Nobodies Created the Greatest Encyclopedia,” Wikipedia’s research principles are as traditional as its operating model is revolutionary. Founder Jimmy Wales says the only nonnegotiable policy is a “neutral point of view,” with entries edited to eliminate ideological bias. The other key principles are verifiability by authoritative sources and a related prohibition on original content.

The guidelines for adding entries to this open-to-all encyclopedia reject open-to-all sources: “Gather references both to use as source(s) of your information and also to demonstrate notability of your article’s subject matter. References to blogs, personal websites and MySpace don’t count — we need reliable sources.”

The guide credits old media and old-fashioned definitions to establish legitimacy. “These sources should be reliable; that is, they should be sources that exercise some form of editorial control.” These include “books published by major publishing houses, newspapers, magazines, peer-reviewed scholarly journals . . .

 

The Wall Street Journal, Monday, April 6, 2009, p. A13

Information Age

By L. Gordon Crovitz

Wikipedia’s Old-Fashioned Revolution