Compare the extensive reach and the easy availability of this avantgarde peer-reviewed e-book publication to the dwindling readership of the pay-based printed journals still being churned out in the legal field and in other academic disciplines, as if the internet did not exist.
We especially grate at an outfit called JSTOR, which, inter alia, often licenses – for an exorbitant fee – grant-financed or tax-financed articles, often derived from research conducted at donor-supported tax-funded institutions, and often written by employees (profs, researchers) who monthly cash in their substantial tax-funded and/or donor-enabled salary checks. In the end, the footer of the bill, the taxpayer, grantor or donor, is asked to cough up even more cash to read the actual results of what he has financed, or – as in the typical case of the archives of the Stanford Law Review of our alma mater law school – we find that JSTOR informs us to our amazement as follows:
“The material you requested is included in JSTOR, an online journal archive made available to researchers through participating libraries and institutions. The publisher of this journal has not yet elected to make single articles available for purchase via the Publisher Sales Service, a publisher opt-in service facilitated by JSTOR.
Authorized users may be required to log in via their library website. For more information about obtaining the complete article, please see Access Options. The citation and first page are available below.“
Jessica Shepherd in her February 13, 2007 article in The Guardian, Pressure is growing for academic publishers to put the fruits of publicly funded labour on the web, quotes Robert Kiley of the Wellcome Trust, the world’s largest medical research charity, on the above issue as follows:
“We believe that the dissemination of research is just part of the research process. We give an academic a grant and pay for their time, accommodation and test-tubes. It seems strange, then, that after a year or two, the outcome is an article which the academic gives to a publisher and which we then have to buy back.“
Shepherd writes further:
“Ian Gibson, chairman of the science and technology select committee, says…. “Academics have got to start engaging with the world, not just 12 or 13 other people interested in their field.“
If at our earthly location someone wants to read an article such as Mason Ladd’s review of Basic Problems of Evidence by Edmund M. Morgan, Stanford Law Review, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Mar., 1955), pp. 312-314, doi:10.2307/1226401, they are simply out of luck unless they happen to be or become a paid subscriber to that particular journal (and even this will not help for back issues no longer available) or unless they are willing to go to great pains in terms of time and expense to locate that particular journal issue in some distant library.
Let’s see. Log in to the internet to find out which library in your vicinity – IF ANY – subscribes to the journal – WorldCat might be a starting place, but this is a difficult task if you have ever tried it. If you live in a more suburban or rural location, drive for perhaps several hours to the next big city with a university-size library, spend another good part of an hour finding a parking space in a crowded college or similar environment, take another half hour at the library to access card or digital catalogues etc., presuming that access is not limited to a chosen few and does not require a library or other entitlement card obtainable (if at all) only after weeks of waiting. Take another part of an hour to figure out how the that library’s card catalogue works and if the required journal is available digitally, on microfilm, in the stacks or in the reading room or whether it is totally inaccessible as “loaned out” to someone else.
Fill out a reading request for the reading room. Give the librarian the requisite chit for someone to go into the stacks to get the journal issue which contains the article one has selected and which might possibly contain the information one is seeking – for which there is no guarantee. Wait for the journal to be delivered to your long-waiting hands. It may then be breaktime or lunchtime, and we all have to eat, so wait until the employees return from that to have your request fulfilled. The journal is then brought to the desk in the reading room. Wait to be called to get the journal. By the time you have found your information – or not – the day and a sizable amount of travel-induced cash expense and research time may have gone up in smoke.
That in its basic form is the research methodology of yesteryear, which in the digital age apparently does not disturb them – the many academic journal publishers or their authors. Indeed, we have even encountered academics who have chided us for not ferreting out their deftly submerged obscurely published alleged gems from the abzu depths of the library stacks – as if we had nothing better to do than to pander to ego-overinflated and antiquated fancies.
This absurd situation does disturb us – greatly. We do not have time to waste our life spending endless hours locating written material which could easily be made accessible on the internet if it were not for the greedy status quo of academic publishing – an $11 billion a year business whose main objectives seem to circulate around profits and academic career promotion rather than dissemination of resources and knowledge. Frankly, we are increasingly adopting the view that if your material is not sensibly available online, we are not going to read it and we are not going to cite it. Why should we give up our valuable time for no other reason than to keep alive an academic publishing system far behind the state of the digital art? At our cost.
By comparison, BlawgWorld 2007 is a very welcome carpe diem in its freely available scholarly form.
BlawgWorld 2007 – immediately available online for perusal – now contains more selected blog postings than the previous publication and also adds a new and useful “TechnoLawyer Problem/Solution Guide” for practicing attorneys.
BlawgWorld 2007 features 77 selected postings from 77 law blogs (blawgs) – including LawPundit – all covering state-of-the art legal (or related) issues. The LawPundit contribution to BlawgWorld 2007 is a posting titled “Justices Opinions Law Clerks Chess and Appellate Delay”, about which Neil J. Squillante of TechnoLawyer has written to LawPundit (e-mail communication of July 30, 2007):
“I agree that we need more law clerks. Plus, there is another benefit — there are more qualified law graduates than openings. Many law students, including those on law review, desperately want to clerk but don’t get the opportunity. “
Note in this regard, for example, from Cornell Law School:
“Each year approximately 10-15% of Cornell’s graduating class begin their careers with a judicial clerkship with a federal or state court.”
Neil’s comment thus points out an important economic aspect of judicial clerkships not covered in our original LawPundit posting. For more on judicial clerkships in the law, see generally e.g.:
Northeastern Judicial Clerkship Handbook,
Indy Clerkship Guide,
clerkship links at JURIST,
Federal Judges Law Clerk Hiring Plan,
Federal Law Clerk Information System,
Judicial Clerkships from Hell (the other side of the coin)
Hat tip to Sara Skiff at TechnoLawyer for all the work involved in preparing BlawgWorld 2007, including the time-consuming task of checking and updating all the URLs in the blog posting(s). Thank you.