What about improving Bepress, which offers “Selected Works” pages that are similar to SSRN “author” pages, for scholars whose schools have an institutional affiliation with Bepress? The two services are hardly perfect substitutes even now, but I wonder why the conversation seems so focused on the one. Has the market for online pre-prints of legal scholarship and, increasingly, on-line post-prints, so tipped in favor of SSRN that Bepress isn’t spoken of in the same posts?
I’ll reframe the question in a way that more clearly exposes my interest as a Research Dean: An individual scholar’s ability to post a paper to Bepress depends on the existence of an institutional relationship between the scholar’s law school and Bepress. (Correction: Individual scholars can post to Bepress under limited circumstances. Bepress has an online series for papers uploaded to law reviews through its ExpressO service.) SSRN does not require an institutional affiliation; individual scholars may post independently, and for free. Does the recent focus on SSRN imply that institutional affiliation is less important in the world of (allegedly) dis-intermediated legal scholarship? If so, what does that mean for the future of Bepress? (And, for that matter, for the future of SSRN? Will SSRN’s institutional clients be willing to continue to subsidize posting and distribution services used by individuals at non-client schools?) If not, why not challenge both Bepress and SSRN to compete on the ideas floated in the posts by Dan, Gordon, and Steve?