Saturday, 15 August 2015

The (slight) positive relationship between teaching and research (based on NSS and REF data for law)

Ok, this is not my original idea but inspired by A. Afonso’s calculation for politics departments. Of course, the relationship between teaching and research — and the question of possible synergies or trade-offs — is also a general topic of research in higher education. And, with respect to law, a recent article by Ginsburg and Miles found that under some specifications research and teaching are positively correlated (based on data from the University of Chicago law school).
   My approach was as follows: I took the 66 law units for which data for both research (ie the REF 2014 data) and student satisfaction (ie the NSS 2015) are available. I started with the NSS data on ‘overall satisfaction’ — but the relation between those and the REF data turned out to be flat and insignificant. Thus, the following is based on the NSS teaching scores only (ie disregarding the other categories of the NSS). For the REF I started with the GPA (ie the quality score):

This shows only a slight positive correlation (0.076) which is not statistically significant.
    But there are also a number of other ways of presenting the REF data, eg, considering the number of *s, or just 3 and/or 4*s; and then scaled by the number of staff submitted or the eligible staff, or else just the absolute numbers. 
   The strongest correlation could be identified for the total number of 4*s - ie the 'research power' of law schools based on 4* assessments:

Here the correlation is 0.2534 and significant at the 5 % level. Note that this result, based on a research power indicator, combines two effects as the total number of 4*s is both dependent on the size of the law school and their respective research quality. In the chart it can be seen that the correlation is mainly due to (i) the law schools with the lowest NSS scores also having few 4* assessments and (ii) the law schools with most 4* assessments usually having above average NSS scores.
    Caveat: there are of course good reasons to be sceptical about the REF and the NSS data; but still, as both are based on subjective assessments, there may be some justification in comparing the corresponding data points.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Publications update (on themes of company and comparative law)

Publishers don’t seem to do summer breaks as in the last few weeks a couple of my articles and book chapters have been published ... So here they are:

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Convergence, Legal Origins, and Transplants in Comparative Corporate Law: A Case-Based and Quantitative Analysis (Cabrelli & Siems)

Just published in American Journal of Comparative Law, vol. 63 (2015), pp. 109-153 (SSRN version available here; related to our book on Comparative Company Law). The abstract reads:
In this Article, we intend to fill a gap in the comparative law literature by adopting a case-based approach to comparative corporate law that highlights the important dimension of specific cases in corporate law matters and how identifiable, but limited issues arising from such case disputes are resolved in different jurisdictions. Our study is based on ten cases used in a wider research project and their solutions in ten countries: eight European countries, the United States, and Japan. We assess the solutions to these cases using quantitative methods of network and cluster analysis. We also seek to enquire whether conceptual differences exist between countries in terms of the source, form, style, and substance of the legal rules which comprise their corporate laws.
   The findings of this assessment are used to evaluate arguments developed in the academic comparative company literature which posit that the existence of fundamental differences in the protection of shareholders across countries reduces the scope for convergence in corporate law systems. The case-based evaluation is also applied to make a contribution towards other influential theories in comparative law, particularly the “legal origins” theorem and the “legal transplants” debate. For example, while we find some evidence of legal transplants, we will show that the notion of legal origins has only limited value in today’s corporate law. Furthermore, the research has a public policy dimension since the existence or absence of differences matters for the question of whether formal harmonization of corporate law in the EU, or further afield, is necessary, desirable, or at all possible.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

The out-of-office reply in today’s academia

Summer and holiday! But of course we do check our emails every day (hour?; minute?). It would be careless not to do so: what if you are invited to a great conference in a wonderful location or get the proofs of your article with some embarrassing typos, both with short deadlines.
   But, still, out-of-office replies may be useful to tell the world that now we don’t really want to respond to emails, at least not very quickly. But then how should one phrase it? I looked at a couple of examples that I received recently. Analysing them, there is first the question whether to indicate an alternative point of contact – and second how far to say (claim?) that you really won’t respond to emails:


With alternative contact
Without alternative contact

From
‘no response’
to
‘slight delay’
I am currently away from the Law School and will have no access to emails until ... If your query is urgent and relates to …, please contact….

Hi folks. I’m away from the office until …; the Law School Reception is probably the best place to direct questions in my absence.

Thank you for your message. I am currently out of office (… to … ) and may not be able to answer emails immediately. If the matter is urgent please contact …

I am away from the University until … without much access to my email. For urgent matters please contact ..

I am out of office until …. During that time, I shall have access to emails, but may take a bit longer than usual to respond. If you have urgent enquiries about … please contact ...
Thank you for your email. I am away until … and I will get back to you as soon as possible thereafter.

During … I am not able to read your email immediately. Your email message will be saved and I will get back to you after my return. In urgent matters please text me at ... 

I am currently out of office and might not be able to respond your emails till …. I will contact you as soon as I can.

Thank you for your email. From .. to .. I will be away from my office with intermittent access to e-mails. I will try to respond to your correspondence as soon as possible.

Thank you for your message. I am currently away on a trip to ... I have less frequent access to email than normal, so there is likely to be a delay in my response to you.

Does this tell us anything interesting? Well, circumstances may be different but also personalities – so do you want to delegate or not? And do you want to create the impression that you’re always ready to work if something urgent comes up, or do you want to tell the world that it should manage for a few weeks without you...?

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Crowdfunding legal scholarship?

ICLA simple google search shows a lively discussion about crowdfunding academic research. Some universities have also developed platforms that aim for crowdfunding research, presumably first Deakin University in Australia and recently SOAS in London.
   Could such crowdfunding also work for legal scholarship? A sceptic may say that crowdfunding is more likely to be relevant for other research: for example, medical breakthroughs, technological interventions and innovative artistic works – all with the potential of attracting funding from the general public.
   But perhaps there can be circumstances where legal scholarship could attract crowdfunding – here some Sunday morning ideas:
  • Donation-based crowdfunding could work for ‘sexy’ legal research, for example, if it can be linked to politically relevant topics (religious extremism, gun control, the EU etc) or if it has a cultural, philosophical or even artistic dimension that make it of interest to the public (eg, crime fiction and law; artworks displaying injustice).
  • Loan-based crowdfunding would need to appeal to investors expecting a return. This could work for legal research where the researcher knows that he/she can expect future income streams but needs resources to conduct this project. For example, someone – a public body, a law firm, a company etc – asks the researcher to produce a report on a particular legal issue but payment will only be with the delivery of the report: so here the crowdfunding would enable the researcher to go on unpaid leave for some time, to appoint assistants etc.
  • Equity-based crowdfunding (and related forms of crowdinvestment) would appeal to investors who aim for a return but are aware of the risks of the investment. This may work for some conventional legal research, for example, the aim to write a popular textbook (where external funding is often not available and universities may be unwilling to grant research leave). So, crowdfunding may again provide the time by way of unpaid leave, buyouts etc to get the book written; then, the funders would participate in the future income streams of the book (while the author should also retain some of the income in order to keep an incentive to produce good work).

Friday, 5 June 2015

What’s a Good Talk in Academia?

It is one of the joys (or burdens) of academia that we attend many talks at conferences, workshops, research seminars etc. Sometimes the topic turns out to be not very exciting, but then it remains possible to reflect a bit on the quality of the presentation – wondering: what’s a good talk in academia?
  Perhaps, a talk is good under the following circumstances: (i) delivered without notes; (ii) nothing left unexplained on the slides; (iii) clear and simple language; (iv) focus on the topic of the talk; (v) perfect timing; (vi) formal outfit.
  However, there are also reasons why each of these points can be counter-productive: (i) notes show that you’re well prepared (ie that you haven’t just made things up on the train etc); (ii) some further information on slides can illustrate the depth of the topic and your research; (iii) appropriate academic terminology is often not simple; (iv) changing between topics can show interesting connections; (v) a dynamic talk is more appealing than a formulaic one; (vi) the audience should focus on substance of talk (thus at best smart academic perhaps).
  So, to sum up, things are complicated … presumably the ‘perhaps arguments’ are, generally speaking, indicators of a good talk but sometimes also a bit ambiguous.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Time travelling to 2003 (with Windows 1998)

Indeed, I went back to the year 2003 yesterday....To explain: in the summer of 2003 I left my old computer together with some furniture in a storage room in Hamburg. Recently I got all of it to my flat in London (actually, I didn't remember that the old computer was still there; I thought I trashed it in 2003). After some complications I managed to restart it again ...


Initially it was a Windows 1995 computer …


Then upgraded to Windows 1998. And desktop as I left it 12 years ago.


Time shows when I bought it I think (Dec 1996). Emails in draft folder about moving to Florence in 2003.

And finally: then end ;-( removed hard drive and kept Pentium processor as a souvenir ….

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Interdisciplinary Study and Comparative Law (Journal of Comparative Law)

Papers on this topic, based on workshops in London, just published in The Journal of Comparative Law vol 9 (2014). For the full table of context of this issue see here. Some of the papers are also available on SSRN – in alphabetical order:

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

How to combine the ‘Brexit’ referendum with a new Scottish referendum

There will be a referendum on the UK leaving the EU in the next two years or so. There is also the expectations that if the UK votes to leave the EU, the Scots may insist on another referendum leaving the UK and this latter referendum may also impact on whether some in the rest of the UK really want an exit from the EU. Or, to present it graphically:

For a combined referendum therefore the following questions would need to be asked:

In Scotland
  • (a) Should the UK leave or stay in the EU? (i) leave, (ii) stay
  • (b) If the UK as a whole but not Scotland voted to leave the EU would you rather: (i) leave the UK (and as result stay in the EU) or (ii) stay in the UK (and as a result leave the EU).
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • Should the UK leave or stay in the EU? (i) leave in any circumstances, (ii) stay in any circumstances, (iii) stay if leaving the EU leads to the break-up of the UK; otherwise leave.