While writing these blog entries and in dialogue with some commentators I realize that it is not just publishing venues that separate political scientists who specialize in public law and Empirical legal scholars and that is posting of manuscripts prior to and even after publication. While many political scientists post their research on their own websites and will post papers on conference proceeding websites before delivery the paper. I would venture to guess that most political scientists do not post manuscripts during the review process. Perhaps the “blind” peer review process inhibits academics from posting work under review, although we do attend conferences and present our research to panels before submission to a journal.
More than posting of work under review or under submission another issue that I now deal with as editor of the Justice System Journal is requests by law professors to post their accepted and published manuscripts on SSRN. Personally I do not care if someone does that. It disseminates the work and helps to publicize the Justice System Journal. Besides, most journal articles are available in some digital format. We are available on Westlaw and on Hein On Line, and the National Center for State Courts, the sponsor of our journal puts each article in a PDF file and posts in on line in the publications section of the research division of the National Center for State Courts.
However, publishers of the journals do care. For most academic journals publishers retain the copyright to the work. Before publication I am required to assign the copyright to the publisher. To reprint work in an edited volume or in a book that reproduces the words, tables or figures, I have to get written permission from the publisher.
Thus my dilemma with authors who want to post their work that is in the JSJ on SSRN. How do I satisfy the publisher’s copyright and the author’s desire for greater dissemination of his or her article?