Observations on Scholarly Impact, September 2023

As of June 30, 2023, we reached a meaningful milestone in scholarly impact data collection at WVU Law.  With five years of download and citation data to consider, trends emerge more clearly and we begin to make a number of practical observations.  A few early ideas worth sharing:

Prioritize scholarship in the institutional repository ("IR"). Downloads from our IR outperform downloads from SSRN by over 60% reflecting a broader audience attracted by our IR.  We recognize that the body of scholarship hosted in the IR is different than the body of scholarship hosted in SSRN but by a margin of only 15%. Prioritizing scholarship in the IR does not substitute posting to SSRN. Both are recommended to maximize exposure and dissemination of scholarship.

Google Scholar is a critical tool for measuring impact and citation to scholarship outside of law as a discipline. Citations captured by Google Scholar include interdisciplinary and international sources and non-journal publications such as books, dissertations, and reports. We note a 65% greater number of citations identified by Google Scholar than HeinOnline or Westlaw’s journals and law reviews database which are limited to legal scholarship. However, Google Scholar citations are also the most variable of scholarly impact measurement tools and are dependent on which sources may be added or removed from Google indexing over time.

Google Scholar is also a forward indicator of citation. In preparing a citing documents bibliography, we observed that citations are captured by Google Scholar one to two quarters earlier than by an alert on HeinOnline or Westlaw. We theorize that this is the result of the publication cycle of law journals, the lag time to disseminate to commercial platforms, and the paywalls which block access to a broader audience who may access and cite to scholarship.

A headshot of Professor Caroline Osborne

Find Professor Osborne's scholarship on SSRN and her SelectedWorks scholarship profile.

A headshot of Law Librarian Stephanie Miller

Find Stephanie Miller's scholarship on SSRN and her SelectedWorks scholarship profile