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24 August 2006


Christopher Zorn

Bill: You're absolutely right. In my experience, law faculty author a very small percentage (probably around 5%, and no more than 10%) of proposals to LSS. As a rule, law faculty also don't fare as well in receiving funding as do researchers from the other social sciences, though that is changing. In my two years there (2003-2005), I can recall only 4-5 full-time law faculty (excluding people with joint appointments) that received awards.

You are spot-on about how proposals are judged. During my time at NSF there was always at least one fully-in-a-law-school member of the review panel, and many (but probably not most) LSS review panelists had joint appointments in law and some social science department. More generally, it is the NSF, so the emphasis on there being (social) scientific content to the work it supports comes with the territory.

William Henderson

Chris, I would be interested to know how many law professors (a) applied for and (b) received NSF grants, either on your watch or others. A rough number would be helpful to put things in perspective. I suspect the law faculty submissions are relatively few.

Further, my impression (based on one submission and the peer feedback and some due diligence) is that submissions are judged as contributions to the social sciences--indeed, I suspect that the majority of review panelists have non-law school academic appointments. Law is not viewed as a freestanding, autonomous discipline. The law appears to be the subject matter; in contrast, the social science discipline provides the theory and methodology. (And this may be entirely appropriate; this may be the outer limit of what "law and social science" really means. I an unaware of an alternative characterization that is intellectually coherent.)

I mention the above because most law faculty have not had the experience of getting roughed up by a single or double blind social science review panel. The standards are quite different (demanding, exacting) than the law school world. Most law professors are not positivists.

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