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13 April 2006


Sara Benesh

I think it's been mentioned on this blog before, but legal academics wanting to tool up could also do so at the Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research at the University of Michigan: http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/training/index.html. They offer all sorts of classes on various levels such that many of us who were formally trained also go back to learn more or to retool, but the new social scientist can also gain a firm footing.

Joe Doherty

In addition I recommend hiring a social science graduate student who
a) needs the money (not always a tautology);
b) has empirical training; and
c) has almost no interest in publishing in the area in which you are writing (so you won't feel guilty about not giving co-authorship).

Jeff Yates

This is coming from a purely self-interested point of view, but a good idea for a first time law prof to ELS might be to co-author with a social scientist with some experience in such work - each party brings their own expertise and experience to the project.

Of course, a related question then become where the work would be published since different departments and/or schools of law value some outlets more than others. Also, there is the matter of co-authorship for law professors. Traditionally, law review articles have been primarily solo authored while social scientists tend toward the co-authored projects for a variety of reasons. Will law schools begin giving proper credit for co-authored pieces as the ELS movement takes hold?

Jeff Yates
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
University of Georgia
SSRN page: http://ssrn.com/author=454290

Christopher Zorn

Following up on an earlier comment, I think that some law faculty should probably start with a review of basic social science concepts, and of the more general scientific process -- e.g., by sitting in on a first-year PhD course on philosophy of science and research design in a sociology / political science / anthropology / economics / whatever department. I suggest this because, as a rule,* legal education is in many respects the worst possible training for doing social-scientific research (for at least a couple reasons).**

Now the caveats: I don't intend my suggestion to apply to joint JD/PhDs (or, for that matter, JD/MDs, or JD/MPHs, or any other JD-hybrid where the denominator involves a science, broadly defined), nor even to every JD-only member of a law faculty. [Conversely, I can think of a fair number of full-time social science faculty (most tenured!) that could benefit hugely from taking my suggestion...]. The bigger, more banal point is that the fundamentals are critical, and so a good place to start is with them.

* Of course, the existence of ELS (and this blog) are testimony to the fact that this state of affairs is changing.

** First is its emphasis on adversarial interaction and argumentation as the process through which conclusions are reached; second (and related) is its preference for logic and "proof" as a means of resolving debates. Neither of these statements is intended to deny the roles that both contention and logic play in the scientific process. My points, rather, are (a) that good social scientists are not in the business of amassing evidence in support of one side of an issue while simultaneously ignoring, discrediting, or minimizing that on the other, and (b) that in the messy, stochastic "real world" of empirical social science, reality (data) often trump -- and, in fact, should trump -- even the most airtight argument from theory.

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