Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

More on OUP Journals and Westlaw

I see Dan Filler, independently, picked up the story about the removal of most OUP journals from Westlaw.  As it happens, I was corresponding with Rhodri Jackson at OUP about this issue, and was invited to share the following information and explanation:

The central fact of Daniel Sokol's piece, that we have pulled some journals from Westlaw, is correct. This happened as of August 1, 2012, and was announced here:

http://www.lexisnexis.co.uk/media/press-release.aspx?id=1341909392334815

There are some things we would correct or add to in Daniel's post. Firstly, European Journal of International Law, Reports of Patent, Design and Trade Mark Cases, and Industrial Law Journal remain in Westlaw.

Secondly, many of the journals Daniel lists were never in Westlaw in the first place, and many are not in Westlaw OR Lexis now. I’ve listed the actual titles removed from Westlaw at the bottom of this email. All our titles remain in the LJI (Legal Journals Index).

Thirdly, re the W&L rankings, whilst Daniel is correct that the W&L rankings are based on Westlaw, it is unlikely removal from Westlaw will have any discernible impact on a journal’s ranking. Citations to journals are pulled from Westlaw – so OUP journals would only fall in those rankings if they received a significant proportion of their citations from one of the removed titles. W&L will still pull citations to OUP journals in other publications in Westlaw’s databases.

More generally, it’s never quite as straightforward as us taking a decision that affects all our journals. We have standard policies but the final decision on appropriate licensing is taken on a journal by journal basis.

Hopefully that helps clarify. As to why - we took the decision to take journals out of Westlaw because we have agreed a preferred licensing partnership deal with Lexis Nexis. We continually evaluate which services are the best fit for our titles, and at present Lexis’ global reach and commitment to working with us to disseminate our content (including new journals) stands out. Usage of the journals within Westlaw was very low, and runs somewhat counter to the dire warnings regarding discoverability which Daniel makes.

We’re very keen to ensure that all our journals are discoverable and citable, and we do appreciate that some scholars and practitioners use Westlaw and the JLR. We are working with Lexis to make our journals as visible and easy to find within their database as possible. It’s also worth noting that the primary method of delivery for all our journals is of course through our own site http://www.oxfordjournals.org/subject/law/index.html. We have licensing agreements with multiple providers including Lexis, Westlaw, Hein, and EBSCO, but usage of the journals at all of those venues is dwarfed by that at Oxford.

I hope that helps clarify, but if you have follow up questions we'll be happy to answer

Titles Removed from Westlaw as of 1 August 2012

British Journal of Criminology

Human Rights Law Review

International Journal of Constitutional Law

International Journal of Law and
Information Technology

International Journal of Law, Policy and
the Family

International Journal of Refugee Law

Journal of Competition Law & Economics

Journal of Conflict and Security Law

Journal of Environmental Law

Journal of International Criminal Justice

Journal of International Dispute Settlement

Journal of International Economic Law

Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization

Journal of Refugee Studies

Law, Probability and Risk

Medical Law Review

Oxford Journal of Legal Studies

Statute Law Review 

This is useful information, and it's certainly right that the effect on any kind of "citation" rankings will be minimal.  On the other hand, this move is not without costs for US-based legal scholars, who overwhelmingly do their research on-line and some of whom (I'm one of them) never use Lexis anymore (I don't even know my Lexis password, it's been so many years!).  Scholarship that isn't in the Westlaw database is going to be missed by some non-trivial number of researchers.  That's unfortunate indeed, and may well give some pause about submitting to these journals.  (As a sidenote, the W&L journal rankings are pretty worthless, I'm surprised to learn anyone is looking at them.)

Thoughts from readers?  Comments must have a full name in the signature line and a valid e-mail address, or they won't see the light of day.

http://leiterlawschool.typepad.com/leiter/2012/08/more-on-oup-journals-and-westlaw.html

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Comments

I think this is a serious mistake on OUP's part. Like Brian, I use Westlaw exclusively and I'm unlikely to switch to Lexis. As a practical matter, this substantially reduces the reach of scholarship published in these journals.

Posted by: Lawrence Solum | Aug 16, 2012 7:24:51 AM

I'm especially sorry to see the Journal of Refugee Studies and the International Journal of Refugee Law pulled from Westlaw. Work on refugees is inherently interdisciplinary and international, and these are both important journals for getting these perspectives. Making them harder to access for US based legal scholars is likely to make scholarship in this area (even more) parochial and confined to narrow US doctrinal issues than it often is now. That's a real shame, if so.

Posted by: Matt Lister | Aug 16, 2012 10:32:49 AM

As a primary Lexis user, I am not troubled by this turn of events. I also will note that a number of years ago, I again began to use Westlaw on the side. There are other differences in the databases that warrant using both (as well as other proprietary databases, SSRN, and Google) in order to research most comprehensively.

Posted by: Joan Heminway | Aug 17, 2012 3:55:38 AM

I am not so sure if it is a mistake or not. But it is puzzling to me. Like Brian and Lawrence I never use Lexis anymore. (Mainly because of difficulty with login. Couldn't seem to store my login from year to year. Lexis seemed to kick me off each academic year. Got annoyed at having to struggle with, be reminded of login, etc every year. I'm curious why others don't use it.) But I also rarely use Westlaw. WL only occasionally provides the article in a PDF that reproduces the article as it appears in print. Having a Word version makes it slightly harder to keep track of the appropriate corresponding page numbers in the print version for citation purposes and most annoyingly, often doesn't reproduce graphs, charts and other illustrations. So I typically go to Hein or the electronic archives of the journal in question for copies I can print out. I think eventually all law reviews will be available digitally, open access. Still, for the time being this decision does seem to make it harder to get these journals. And why they would want to do that is mysterious. The drop in citations probably won't be that critical but still you would think that every little bit of readership helps. The above explanation wasn't really very enlightening on that point. I suspect though that this is about every little bit of revenue not readership. (Brian, as with US News rankings, I think people pay attention to the W&L rankings because people pay attention to them. In other words, it may be of questionable reliability or validity, but the more people treat it as if it is significant, the more significant it becomes. My impression is that a lot of people treat W&L rankings as important, even if imperfect, measures of a journal's stature. I wish they didn't and all this enthusiasm for trying to rank stuff would lose its appeal, people would stop trying to create new and different rankings systems; but I don't see any prospect of that in the near future. )

Posted by: Tamara Piety | Aug 17, 2012 5:11:54 AM

OUP journals (unlike, e.g., ABA or student-edited journals) also don't permit authors to make the published versions of their articles freely available on SSRN unless the authors pay an exorbitant open access fee.

Posted by: Bill Page | Aug 17, 2012 6:48:47 AM

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