By Scott Burris
Glenn and Mark have done their bit for benchmarking our field with another round of health law professor rankings. It is a largely thankless task, so thank you professors. Last year, I responded to their list with the observation that any count based on law review publication alone was problematic in assessing the contributions of those in our field whose scholarship is primarily empirical or aimed at the health world. I offered a suggestive “top scholars list” based on Google Scholar profiles. Using Google Scholar, which captures articles in all fields, plus books and gray literature, brought a number of different names into the top 20. Since Google Scholar depends on individuals to create and clean their profiles, my list missed a lot of top scholars without profiles (I am talking about you, Michelle Mello and George Annas, etc. etc.), but it was enough to suggest that some very productive and much-cited scholars were missed in the Hall-Cohen list.
It is imperative for health law, even in law schools, to be a transdisciplinary endeavor that speaks to a broad audience of lawyers and non-lawyers doing health work. Mark and Glen heard my plea last year and this year they recruited David Studdert and me to see if we could generate a list that captured transdisciplinary scholars. I went back to Google scholar and quickly tripped over the problems mentioned above. Only about a third of health law profs have Google Scholar profiles, and not even all of them have cleaned them. David went to Web of Science and produced this pretty good list. It shows that some of our top law review scholars are also tops in the journals of other disciplines, but it also identifies some people who are making huge contributions to health law without doing much in the Westlaw Journals library. Most strikingly, the top scholar on the Web of Science list is David Studdert himself, who is not even top 20 in Westlaw journals cites. Five others who did not make the Westlaw list show up in Web of Science, and you can see from the names what a big contribution is missed when we just look at law journals: Kevin Outterson, James Hodge, Thaddeus Pope, Chris Robertson, and Leslie Francis. Between the two lists, I think we get a good picture of the breadth and depth of our field.
Google Scholar is still in my view the most complete and, in theory, easiest tool for counting citations in transdisciplinary health law. We can’t use it, though, unless a lot more of you create and clean your profiles. Think about it, anyway.