A European perspective to the assessment of academic legal publications is still in its infancy. Yet, in Europe, there are several contexts in which assessment of academic works takes place: when legal scholars apply for funding at the European Research Council, when they submit manuscripts to book publishers or law journals that target a European audience, and when they try to get awarded a contract for doing research for the European Commission. Moreover, there are debates and initiatives on European journal and university rankings in which the assessment of academic legal publications is also discussed. This chapter explores and critically discusses the assessment criteria and procedures employed in these various contexts. It finds that all institutions that evaluate works of academic legal scholarship have, independent of each other, developed their own specific evaluation criteria and procedures that are subjected to similar flaws (most-importantly: multi-interpretable criteria and a focus on author status rather than substantive quality). It is therefore argued that it is high time to have a more vivid European debate on how best to evaluate the work legal scholars produce.
Rob van Gestel and Marnix Snel
Dutch legal research is in flux. Not only is there an increasing diversity of approaches (doctrinal, comparative, empirical etc.) but traditional legal research is also showing more and more attention to the multi-layered character of European law and to the socio-economic context in which the law is applied and enforced. At the same time, research evaluation methods do not seem to hold pace with these developments. Journals and publishers are still struggling with quality indicators and review procedures (e.g. editorial review, blind peer review, open review). Due to the emphasis in the national research assessment and in the internal research assessment guidelines of law schools, legal scholars are increasingly torn between two worlds: the practice-oriented national discourse, which requires writing for professionals in Dutch and a focusing on a more international, multidisciplinary, and theoretical discourse which demands writing for English language law journals and international publishers. In order to be promoted, Dutch legal scholars are also increasingly forced to apply for external research funding. Here legal scholars have to deal with the fact that their research proposals are usually assessed by mixed panels of social scientists, who have great difficulties with the fact that legal scholars are not used to make their implicit methods and theories more explicit for a broader audience. Moreover, assessment panels cannot rely on more formal quality indicators, such as the ranking of journals and publishers where legal scholars publish their work, because there is no European ranking of law journals or book publishers. The questions is also whether legal scholars should adapt to the (bibliometric) evaluation practices that are common in the social and natural sciences or should try to come up with their own evaluation systems, which can be tailored to the specificities of the discipline. Whatever the choice is that law as a discipline is going to make, we have to be careful not to end up in an academic ‘audit society’ in which performance evaluation becomes a goal in itself