Thursday, April 12, 2012

Empirical Legal Studies faculty lists, redux

A colleague elsewhere writes

[S]adly, with comments, the list has degenerated into including lots of people who cannot possibly be called “empiricists”. There are several categories of false positives: (1) non-empiricists who once or twice co-authored with empiricists, but clearly did not and cannot do empirical work on their own; (2) people who do “soft” empirical work, case studies and such; (3) people who have a non-empirical main field and clearly don’t know any math, but did a project or two counting random things and putting them into silly tables to support some position they took in their substantive field. The category #3 no doubt sounds vague, but empirical work is a lot more than counting random stuff, so you’d see a surprising level of consensus among serious empiricists re who is in category #3 who is not. My own simple but reliable proxy: if a person published an empirical paper in a top econ/finance/law-econ/polisci journal and *he did the empirical analysis himself* (rather than relying on a co-author), he is an empiricist. Otherwise, no. This promptly removes more than half of the list.

Perhaps this would set the bar too high, but I am worried about (1) and (3) especially resulting in significant padding of the lists.  Not sure at this point how we will proceed.

UPDATE:  Paul Edelman, a professor of both law and mathematics at Vanderbilt, writes:

There are certainly definitional problems with the project of ranking empirical legal studies groups, but I had to laugh at the criticism of  “people who have a non-empirical main field and clearly don’t know any math” since damn few empiricists know any math.  They have sophisticated training in some techniques but only a sophomore undergraduate's view of mathematics. Really, these guys have to get off their high horse.  Good empirical work is not brain surgery.

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