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03 April 2007




David Stras

Excellent point, Bill, and thanks for the link to the post on Conglomerate. On your first point, I agree that the different disciplines value various journals differently, and that is why you see only tenured faculty in either discipline publishing in the journals of the other. For instance, political science departments generally discount publication in law journals due to the fact that they are student edited. That is also why you will see CVs from political scientists prominently note that the journal is "peer reviewed" when they do publish in legal journals. So insularity and different emphases within the disciplines surely serve to widen the gap.

On the second point, the interdisciplinary focus of legal scholarship only fails when it loses track of the primary focus of legal scholarship: the study and evaluation of legal norms, rules, doctrine, institutions, etc. Empirically studying the sentencing habits of federal judges, for example, can be quite useful in evaluating sentencing regimes. On the other hand, an empirical study of the extracurricular habits of America's youth is both beyond the expertise of most in the legal academy and not very useful in evaluating legal norms, rules, doctrines, institutions, etc.

I also think that it is a shame that law schools have become so focused on interdisciplinary scholarship that traditional doctrinal scholarship is largely discounted today. In my opinion, there is not only a place for both types of scholarship, but a need for both as well.

I hope to raise another issue today on my post on co-authorship: the differences between multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary scholarship, and whether one is more useful than the other. It may shed further light on my view of whether the interdisciplinary movement has failed.

William Henderson

Nice post. Re the lack of collaboration between law and political science (or any discipline), is it possible that this rift is largely a function of institutional incentives?

Political scientists build their careers by publishing in APSR; law professors do the same by publishing in Harvard, Yale, top 20, whatever. For a host of reasons, it is harder for both groups to publish in the other field's discipline. And even if they did clear the significant presumption against them, the publication is not a valued quantity in their home discipline. Why do it?

A separate question is whether interdisciplinary collaboration actually produces better work or novel insights, as opposed to the two disciplines operating in isolation. Sure.

Gordon Smith linked to a great post on this the other day. Some might think interdisciplinary work is a "failure"; I would argue that institutional incentives foreordain that outcome because they reward insularity.


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