Interdisciplinarity, Leiter and the Bluebook
The basic framework of the debate is
Objection: “But you didn’t measure X…”
Leiter: “True. Let a hundred flowers bloom, and do your own data collection!”
(Which strikes me as pretty persuasive.) I wanted to add a different ingredient into the pot. I think Leiter’s rankings mismeasure impact in interdisciplinary scholarship for a reason unrelated to his methodology or its merits. Simply put: the Bluebook itself undervalues interdisciplinary collaborations and thus scholarship.
I’m not nearly the first to observe that the Bluebook’s citation rules have an ideological component. See, e.g., Christine Hurt’s great piece on that very topic. But consider the interaction between Bluebook Rule 15.1, 16 and Leiter’s study. R.16 states that the citation of author names in signed law review articles should follow Rule 15.1. R. 15.1 states that when there are two or more authors, you have a choice:
Either use the first author’s name followed by “ET AL.” or list all of the authors’ names. Where saving space is desired, and in short form citations, the first method is suggested . . Include all authors’ names when doing so is particular relevant.
This seems to me to express a pretty strong non-listing preference. The “problem” is that much good interdisciplinary work results from collaborations among more than two authors – it is the nature of the beast. Take, for example, my colleague Jaya Ramji-Nogales’ forthcoming triple-authored article Refugee Roulette: Disparities in Asylum Adjudication, which was front-paged by the Times back in June. Two of the article’s authors are in danger of being ET AL.’ed in many law review footnotes, and consequently ignored in subsequent Leiter citation counts (unless the citing article’s author chooses to mention them by name in the text). This seems like a trivial objection, but it will take on increasing weight over the next ten years as empirical legal studies really comes online in the major law reviews. (Obviously, I’m writing in part because I’ve two articles in the pipeline where I’m a part of three-author teams, and the “et al.” problem is somewhat salient.)
Bluebook editors: I know you are lurking here! Can you fix this silly problem in the 19th edition?