Tuesday, 24 December 2013

My Top Blog Posts 2013

Ok, it’s the time of the year 
  1. UK Law Journal Ranking (RAE 2008 data) [722 pageviews]
  2. Germans in UK Law Schools (updated) [427 pageviews]  
  3. Google tells you that your university may be ... [378 pageviews]
  4. The REF Ranking Puzzle – Not Yet Solved [215 pageviews]
  5. The best of both worlds: Empirical Legal Studies in the US and the UK [193 pageviews]
And my least popular one: Happy New Year and w.i.m.i.D. [40 pageviews]

Happy holidays!

Monday, 16 December 2013

The ‘punctuation social personalities’ of the highest UK, US and RSA courts

I recently found this nice chart (click on it to enlarge). What if take it ‘seriously’ and apply it to the judgements of the UK Supreme Court, the US Supreme Court, and the Constitutional Court of South Africa? I looked at the three most recent judgements of the three courts (for the UK 1, 2, 3; for the US 1, 2, 3; for RSA 1, 2, 3), counted the punctuation signs of these judgments and then presented it in % (the total numbers were 932 for the UK, 2314 for the US, 3272 for the RSA).



So, it seems the UK court is the one that most frequently ‘trails off on a tangent’, ‘likes to introduce groups or persons’, ‘tells you what everyone else says’, the US court ‘never starts an argument but always finishes it’, ‘pauses often while speaking’, ‘interrupts others with own thoughts’, and the RSA one ‘loves bringing similar people together’ (and hopefully different ones as well!) and ‘pulls you away from the conversation’.
But actually, it seems to me that this result is mainly driven by the citation style: in US Supreme Court decisions there are many references (with ‘.’, ‘,’, ‘-‘), and in the South African court it’s common to us ‘()’. Perhaps most interesting is the tendency of the UK court for quotations ‘“”’, possibly indicating a more formal and positivist style of argumentation than in the other courts.

Monday, 9 December 2013

The Circle of Social Sciences and Humanities

A couple of weeks ago I attended a talk by Edward Skidelsky in the SAS history institute on ‘Why should philosophers be interested in the history of ideas?’. The talk led to a lively discussion: on the one hand, the historians emphasising particularities, and on the other, the philosopher (Skidelsky) emphasising the possibility of some universal ideas. I found this interesting since I would usually assume that the big divide to be between social sciences and humanities (including both history and philosophy). Thinking about it a bit further, I came up with the following circle:
What does it show (and not show)?
  • The divide between social sciences and humanities, plus formal sciences (and a link to natural sciences) – but, in addition, the distinction between ‘particularist’ and ‘universalist’ fields in both social sciences and humanities. Of course, the examples are not always clear-cut (eg, anthropology and sociology may be either particularist or universalist), ie the position aims to show the dominant view in the field in question.
  • Overall, the areas of research are presented in a circle with the formal sciences (eg maths) filling the gap: eg see (anti-clockwise) that economics is somehow linked to maths and logic which is somehow linked to philosophy, which is somehow linked to literature etc.
  • The question not addressed in this picture is: where is ‘law’? so please read further here.
PS: of course, I’m not the first one who’s trying to map academic fields, see, eg, the relatively simple figures here and here, and more complex networks and scientograms here and here (as well as the scimaps).

Monday, 2 December 2013

The New Confusion: What’s an “Associate Professor” in the UK?

Academic ranks can be complicated (for easy reference Wikipedia). Traditionally, the UK ranks were “Professor”, “Reader”, “Senior Lecturer” and “Lecturer”, but now some universities shift a bit towards the US model of “Professor, “Associate Professor” and “Assistant Professor”. However, this is done in a fairly confusing way. The majority of law schools have not yet changed (I haven’t checked other schools), but as far as they have, there seem to be various models:
  • The LSE model which goes fully American, ie all “Readers” and “Senior Lecturers” become “Associate Professors”, and all “Lecturers” become “Assistant Professors” (see here, but still the old titles on the law website). PS: I think it’s the same in Warwick but the law staff list doesn't mention any ranks.
  • The Nottingham model which keeps “Lecturer”, but all “Readers” and “Senior Lecturers” become “Associate Professors” (see law staff list).
  • The Plymouth model – like Nottingham, but the words “Reader” and “Senior Lecturer” are added in brackets to the “Associate Professors” (see law staff list).  
  • The Exeter model: only the “Readers” become “Associate Professor”, but “Senior Lecturers” and “Lecturers” remain (see law staff list).  
  • The Leeds-Reading model where on the staff list there are both “Associate Professors” and “Readers” and “Senior Lecturers” (see here and here).
My view on this? Not sure – well, it doesn't really matter for me, but I don’t think the current confusion is really sustainable, and I’d guess that in the next ten years or so the US terminology will win the day.