Monday, October 13, 2008

Are SSRN and USN&WR All That Different?

Like many others I make use of SSRN. But then again I also read the USN&WR rankings. Now I think they may be equally meaningful or meaningless. Recently a friend and I coauthored an article and posted it. In a few days we were receiving the top ten for recently submitted articles. It's not that the number of downloads was high. It was that most of the top ten categories were quite narrow. So, we racked up this honor for "Randomized Social Experiments and SE: Primary Taxonomy (Topic)." Actually I do not know if this is one or two categories nor what our paper could possibly have to do with "experiments" however defined. Maybe the word "Malthusian" in the title explains it. After all, the last time I looked one of the top downloads was "Fuck."

And then there was the notice for the same article informing us that we climbed to the top ten in "PT: Tax Policy (Topic) and SE: Primary Taxonomy (Topic)." And another notice for "PPTSR: Other (Topic), PPTSR: Other (Topic) and PT: Tax Policy (Topic)." I am just quoting these notices but it appears that there are four different ones.

Like USN&WR this seem pretty meaningless to me. Yet like USN&WR my fear is that these top ten lists are taken seriously. Are they going to begin appearing in decanal glossies? Will SSRN finally get to the point of creating a category for each professor so we can all be in the top ten in something.

Increasingly SSRN reminds of the letters I get telling me that my son has been "elected" to the Who's Who of High School Students and all I have to do is pay $50 to have his name listed and receive a copy of the book. Oh, and I need to fill out a form about my son because they actually do not know anything about him.

Is SSRN "false applause" similar to USN&WR? Maybe. In the day of cost free downloading I think it is similar. It is as subject to manipulation? Sure it is. The right title will get you a glance and maybe even a download whether the article is read or tossed in recycling after gathering dust for a few weeks. Or just write to everyone cited or thanked to alert them to your new posting and BAM! you've got a bunch of download right there. And then you can tell your Dean or list it on your resume. You are so important!


Blogger emfink said...

To quote the great Alvy Singer: "All they do is give out awards. Greatest fascist dictator, Adolf Hitler."

10/14/2008 8:18 AM  

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