Attitudes of Profs Towards Online Publication

July 27th, 2011

Brian Leiter links to a study performed by Richard Danner at Duke about attitudes of Profs towards online publishing.

Increasingly, U.S. law journals post current articles in freely accessible PDF format on their web sites. Yet,  they also continue to publish print issues despite evidence that new legal scholarship is read not in print, but online in SSRN or the journals’ own postings.  Subscriptions to print are declining, and law libraries  are no longer preserving journals in print.  Yet, law review editors, who themselves rarely use print in their research, fear the impacts of ending print publishing on their journal’s reputation and ability to attract the best authors.  Does it matter to law journal authors whether their work is published in print?  We surveyed 464 authors of articles published in the last two completed volumes of the lead journal at the law schools ranked in the top fifteen by US News in March 2010.  Over 51 percent replied.

Sixty eight percent of the respondents indicated that continuing publication of print issues would not have affected their decision to publish the particular article in the journal where it appeared.  Yet, when asked more generally what they would do if they had had offers from more than one of the journals on the list, other than those they considered  to be the most prestigious, 51 percent of the authors  said that a journal’s continuing publication of print issues would be the deciding factor in choosing which offer to accept.    When broken down by years teaching, however, only 38  percent of authors who had been teaching for six or fewer years said that print would be the deciding factor in their decision.  Although the survey results suggest that print remains important to law journal authors, it will become less important over time.

Reassuring, somewhat.