I received a copy of this mass e-mail from the good folks at ExpressO, the on-line law review submission service affiliated with the Berkeley Electronic Press:
Are your law students asking you for the opportunity to use ExpressO to get published? * * * The challenge is that students with unfettered ExpressO access have an unfortunate habit of submitting indiscriminately to law reviews. Article editors of admiralty law, family law and antitrust law journals are, for example, asked to consider the same piece of student research. The superfluous submissions waste the law review editor’s time and create uncontrollable costs for law schools.
The goals of the new offering would be to serve the interest of the student authors and the law reviews while keeping costs manageable. ExpressO would offer a new institutional account type called”student account”. It would enable students from participating institutions to submit to law journals in any single discipline/subject area. For example, a student writing about international law would be able to submit all international law journals. The law reviews would also benefit. Limiting student submissions to a single discipline means law reviews would see fewer submissions outside of their scope. Additionally, only those law reviews eager to consider student submissions would get them as all will have the option to opt-out of the program.
I can understand an institution’s desire to limit the number of journals to which users can submit. After all, our home institution pays a fee for each submission we make.
Separate from the question of whether law schools should pay for students’ submissions, the e-mail inspires a concern about the channeling function of ExpressO. A system that asks an author to declare her or his “single discipline/subject area” and then chooses for the author those journals that “fall within” that subject area might not be a boon for inter-subject matter scholarship.
I already have the (unmeasured, unproven, unverified) sense that the growth of speciality journals has both helped and hurt gender scholarship, for example. Speciality journals “help” insfoar as they provide a much needed venue for the work, but they “hurt” insofar as they provide a reasonable intellectual basis for a main journal to decline speciality articles. Why should X main journal publish a ________[fill in the blank speciality] article, when the school already has the Journal of ________ [fill in the blank speciality] & the Law?
If a piece of scholarship would be appropriate for both a family law journal and an admiralty journal, to use ExpressO examples, then why shouldn’t a user be able to send to self-proclaimed “family” law journals and “admiralty” journals at the same time? Not a big deal, of course, because presumably one could simply make two submissions: one declaring the article a “family” law piece and the other declaring the article an “admiralty” law piece. More importantly, though, will “main” journals be even less likely to accept any specialty articles, if the submission system itself institutionalizes specialty “tracks”?
Law review editors and authors, what do you think?