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Law School Ratings

For better or for worse, ratings and rankings of U.S. law schools are here to stay.  Citation count studies of law professors are often held up as the best alternative to U.S. News rankings of law schools, but other “non-flaky” systems are out there.  Here are two.

Inside Higher Ed today reports on plans at the Green Bag to produce an aptly-named “Deadwood Report.”  Based on a review of each law school’s public information, “[its] focus will be on the most dully objective of measures: whether the work is being done — whether each law school faculty member is teaching courses, publishing scholarly works, and performing pro bono service.”  A summary of the plan is posted on SSRN.

Relatedly, at a conference over the weekend I was introduced to the UK’s Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), sponsored by a collective of government funding authorities, which rates the research of every higher education program in UK on a five-star scale for purposes of assessing prospective access to funding.  The assessments are conducted by peer panels, and they are grounded in ratings of individual staff / faculty members.  Citation analysis is, I think, part of the assessment, but not determinative of the results. If I’ve followed the online resources correctly, the last comprehensive RAE was published in 2001 (prior RAE results were published in 1992 and 1996).  RAE 2008 is now underway, but a successor program, the Research Excellence Framework, is in the design stages.  With new sources of data available, the new framework may use more advanced bibliometric techniques to measure scholarly impact, initially with respect to scientific disciplines.  It is suggested here that usage data is also likely to be included, relying on data supplied by institutional repositories.