Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Comparative Law book: accompanying website

We’re moving closer to the publication of my Comparative Law book. Now, the accompanying website is available here; it's is not yet finished – so any suggestions are welcome!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Ferguson’s Civilization (compared to other research on economic development)

I just finished reading Niall Ferguson’s book Civilization (initially with the subtitle 'The West and the Rest'; but in the paperback version with the one 'The Six Killer Apps of Western Power'). 
  I'm not going to do a book review here, but want to reflect briefly how this book differs from related ones such as Acemoglu & Robinson’s Why Nations Fail (discussed here). Ferguson is a historian; thus his book provides more historical details than the related work written by economists. But, then, with a popular science spin, it also tries to identify the ‘six killer apps’. This does not really work very well since the details of the chapters do not always relate to the category in question (eg, the chapter on ‘medicine’ includes a general description of differences between colonial powers; the one on ‘work’ discusses the role of religion in general terms etc). In the conclusion the book also notes the complexity of historical events (eg, as regards the rise and fall of civilizations); thus, again one is wondering whether this would not speak against a limited number of ‘killer apps’.
   Thus, in terms of academic disciplines, it seems to me that historical research is bound to have a particularist dimension (see previous post). Of course, historians may also ‘feel’ that some things are universal, but I’m not sure whether their method (ie careful understanding of primary sources, elaboration of specific  events etc) is really the best way to identify them. 

Friday, 17 January 2014

Possible academic misconduct (SSRN manipulation) - what shall I do?

I'm working on an empirical paper on SSRN papers in law. Inter alia, I look at the relationship between 'abstract views' and 'downloads' of SSRN papers. I find that, in average, the download numbers are about 20% of the view numbers (with some papers only having a single digit % but others around 30%). Then, however, I found the research by someone who has around 30 papers on SSRN and all of them have 70% or more downloads – some of them even more than 100%. How is this possible? 

The only answer I can find is that this person clicks on one of his papers and then downloads his own paper multiple times until SSRN tells you to log on (ie that's why the view counts are fairly low, in comparison). Or is there another explanation (also given that it's not just one paper)? And is spending your time downloading your own SSRN papers really academic misconduct or not just a slightly embarrassing vanity thing? Of course, I don't want to make false allegations – so for the time being, I won't name the person in question (who, btw, is not someone famous but an academic at a middle-ranked US university).

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Are British judges ‘corrupt’ and Portuguese judges like ‘gods’?

Since my ‘Google instant search posts’ have been fairly popular now another one. This time I typed into google.ac.uk, google.fr, google.it etc the beginning of a sentence about judges and (statutory) law. So, does this show differences between countries (say, common and civil law)? To start with, here are the results for the first two Google instant search suggestions for each of the categories and countries:

UK
judges are … 
corrupt / 
appointed for life
laws are …
like sausages /
silent in times of war
France
les juges sont
de gauche  /
la bouche de la droit
les lois sont
justes /
votées par qui
Italy
i guidici sono
organi publicci /
soggetti alla legge
le leggi sono… 
promulgate /
retroattive
Spain
los jueces son
funcionarios /
independenties
las leyes son
como las mujeres / retroactivas
Portugal
juizes são
agentes politicos / deuses
as leis sãocomo teias de aranha / convenções humanas
Germany
Richter sind
Beamte /
unabhaengig
Gesetze sind …  
abstrakt-generell / wie Spinnweben
Netherlands
de rechters zijn
onafhankelijk /
niet onafhankelijk
wetten zijn …  
als worstjes /
onschendbaar

Interesting to see that countries have somehow similar analogies about ‘laws’ (sausages, spider webs – but Spain?). Most of the ‘judges’ suggestions refer to some common characteristics – with some exceptions (UK, Portugal, France). One could also do a more structured research for certain characteristics: eg, independence of judges – and then checking whether frequent hits mean that such independence is or is not prevalent.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy new year – and reflections on blogging

I am just re-reading my reflections on blogging from 2009. They are, more or less, still valid, but it may be a good time to restate the scope of this blog: well, I don’t really have a fixed scope, but usually I blog about (i) my own published research (ie it’s unashamedly self-promotional), (ii) recent legal developments with brief comments, (iii) things I find interesting about academia, (iv) ideas to present any topic in an unusual way (eg, in a chart, figure, table), (v) more personal things (rarely) and (vi), then, everything else of course …