The term "parallel science" was coined by a political scientist, Maciej Górecki, to describe (primarily) East and Central European social sciences and humanities. This ironic term denotes research clusters that are not internationally visible and are published mostly, if not exclusively, in vernacular languages. These two mortal sins render them unscientific and relegated to national bubbles strongly insulated from the rest of the world. In other words, anything that is not published in English and not found in SCOPUS or Clarivate-indexed journals is considered a "parallel science" that should not be treated seriously and financed by the government.
This way of thinking aligns with what many European governments are currently doing while introducing performance-based university funding systems. These systems suit STEM disciplines well, while humanities and social sciences, including law, appear to suffer. Government representatives claim they do not follow the STEM path by default, and their specific role in society can justify publication in national languages. This argument is strongly supported by academic lawyers, who point out that law is strongly connected with national jurisdictions and that academic lawyers analyse mainly domestic legal rules with practitioners and lawmakers in mind. So for lawyers, publishing for an international market is generally the exception, not the rule. The government's response to this argument is, in most cases: "All other academics publish their research in top international journals, so should you. If not, you get no funding. Off you go, parallel scientists."
The purpose of this project is to analyse academic lawyers' publishing patterns to ascertain if they follow the general model of STEM and some social sciences, such as psychology, or if they are truly different from the rest of the pack. We use a mixed-method approach for this purpose: comparative legal analysis, bibliometrics and socio-legal research. The presentation will show partial project results based on the research performed so far.
A preliminary analysis of results of the Times Higher Education Law ranking, Research Assessment Framework (UK), Polish Research Evaluation Exercise, and SCOPUS data shows that academic lawyers tend to have their own publishing patterns and do not follow the rest of the pack. Lawyers tend to publish at home: in national journals, many of them published by the authors’ own university, with only a handful of journals covering more than three jurisdictions. There are no international law journals parallel to Science or Nature where lawyers worldwide publish their texts. Also, the citation data appears different for law as a discipline: they are usually very low, and many papers go uncited. This is in line with what has been found earlier for the humanities. There are at least four possible explanations for this phenomenon proposed in the literature: a) this research is so uninteresting that no one reads it; b) lawyers tend to publish in books and in journals that are not indexed by SCOPUS and other databases, which explains lower citation rates; c) there is a “citation bias,” i.e. academics refuse to cite specific journals or texts authored by people representing developing countries or even (for the US) anything except student-run law reviews; and d) academic lawyers solve real-life problems and their readers are practitioners and lawmakers who use the research but do not write learned texts. The same reasoning has been used recently to explain the differences between citation rates of papers written by male and female scholars in STEM. It has been suggested that female researchers often choose real-world problems, and their work is socially relevant and used more frequently in professional rather than academic contexts. This hypothesis has yet to be tested.
The preliminary results show that the bibliometric data should be used carefully while assessing the quality of academic legal research. There is no one-size-fits-all formula. Thus, the results of this project could be used by lawmakers to improve their performance-based funding systems and by university research policy and marketing managers to improve their universities' positions in international rankings.