Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Should Junior Faculty Post Work on SSRN and, If So, When?

A tenured colleague elsewhere asks:  "What about this issue of posting articles on SSRN pre-offer or pre-publication in a review. Good practice or bad for junior people? "

Here's what I typically tell junior faculty:  do not post anything on SSRN (or anywhere else on the web) until it's an essentially penultimate draft.  Junior people, not being 'known' quantities, don't have the luxury of posting material in rough draft with the expectation that even if it's not so good, readers will come back for more.  The nightmare scenario for untenured faculty is to put an unrepresentative and mediocre piece of work on SSRN, have folks in your field look at it, and conclude, "This guy/gal is a lightweight, not worth my time anymore."   The psychological literature makes clear that first impressions are very sticky, and a junior faculty member wants the first impression of other scholars to be favorable.

So, in sum, I think it's fine to post something on SSRN before it is accepted for publication, but only post it if it's been vetted by colleagues, revised, and polished.  Put your best foot forward, not your rough draft.

Thoughts from readers?  Signed comments only.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2010/05/should-junior-faculty-post-work-on-ssrn-and-if-so-when.html

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Comments

Brian,

I think you're right as a general matter: always best to present the scrubbed, vetted version. That said, there are some circumstances that militate for early posting. If the article relates to a topic that is rapidly changing (e.g., financial regulation), then it is wise to post before the piece is dated. Also, SSRN posting lets you claim turf as your own.

The key point is to recognize that for almost all purposes (other than tenure files, I think), SSRN posting _is_ publication; almost no one reads the published version of an article unless they come across it in a database while doing research. Casual browsing of print law reviews has been replaced by SSRN journal abstracts.

Posted by: Adam Levitin | May 26, 2010 4:53:30 PM

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