Thursday, February 14, 2019
...basically on the model I used to do and Greg Sisk (St. Thomas) has continued now for several years, but with a couple of differences/unknowns. I guess they didn't want to be left behind by the new "gold standard"!
First, the similarities: they will examine only a five-year window (2014-2018, no doubt because Sisk just did 2013-2017); and they will collect data on citations to the median and mean faculty member, as Sisk did. But now the differences: they appear to be planning on including tenure-track faculty, not just tenured faculty, even though tenure-track faculty have much lower citation rates; they are using Hein instead of Westlaw; and they are also going to count publications (how is a bit unclear). Also unclear is whether they plan to combine productivity with impact measures: given Bob Morse's affection for meaningless aggregations of apples and oranges, I fear that's what they may do. But we'll see.
USNews.com does not plan on incorporating the impact/productivity ranking into this year's law school rankings, but I bet money they will incorporate it going forward, which is consistent with changes they've made to their overall Business and Medical School rankings, incorporating more "objective" data, although not impact metrics. Obviously USNews.com knows it has been repeatedly burned by misleading self-reporting by schools that it never carefully audits, so switching to non-manipulable metrics no doubt seems preferable. And since their academic reputation surveys are now just echo chambers of recent overall rankings, adding in an impact/productivity component would be a slight corrective to that. (Contrast, e.g., Stanford's academic reputation in U.S. News [tied with Yale and Harvard] with its scholarly impact performance.)
Schools that have their clinical faculty on the tenure-stream, even if there are not publication expectations, may be in particular trouble here. Sisk's policy, which was mine, was to exclude clinical faculty, since at many schools, even those where they have tenure, their responsibilties do not include scholarship. But USNews.com is asking for all tenured and tenure-track faculty, regardless of primary role or function.