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Sanne Taekema, ‘Publishing Online: A New Direction and Some Methodological Consequences’, 2014, juli-september, DOI: 10.5553/REM/.000006

DOI: 10.5553/REM/.000006

Law and MethodAccess_open


Publishing Online: A New Direction and Some Methodological Consequences

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Sanne Taekema, 'Publishing Online: A New Direction and Some Methodological Consequences', LaM July 2014, DOI: 10.5553/REM/.000006

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      As of 1 January 2014, the journal Law and Method/Recht en methode has undergone a change that is only now becoming apparent: it has become a fully online, open access journal. Around this time of the year, the print issue of the journal would have appeared, introduced by an editorial highlighting the common themes of the articles in the issue. However, with the turn to online open access publication, the journal has also let go of the idea of issues: we no longer gather four or five articles together but publish every article as soon as it has gone through the review and editing process.
      This editorial is therefore special: it is the last old-style editorial for a set of articles that do not form a special issue. We will continue to make special issues for specific themes, but otherwise articles will appear as part of a (virtual) volume only, starting with volume 2014. Readers who have been paying attention may therefore have noticed that the first article of 2014, Observeren in de rechtszaal, by Nienke Doornbos, has been online since March. In this editorial, I will make a few observations about the consequences of online publishing for research and education methods.
      Although many students still prefer to have their textbooks in print, they predominantly write papers and essays on the basis of online sources only. Apart from the old problem of being able to find the most relevant sources, in print or online, this has generated the new problem of identifying good sources. The big advantage of having to go to a library, which I did not realize at the time when this was the only way to collect information, is that it preselects and catalogues sources. Of course, Google also preselects, but usually not in ways that are very productive academically. In terms of teaching research methodology to students, it has become much more important to teach differences between, and the relative value of, sources. Quite a few students are genuinely surprised to hear that research reports commissioned by a government agency or professional association do not have the same standing as scholarly articles, and their confusion is even greater when both are written by university professors. As in many other contexts, acquiring information skills also requires developing critical judgment.
      For academic researchers who are expected to possess such skills, there is still the problem of the overwhelming amount of information available. As Marnix Snel points out in his article Source-usage with doctrinal legal inquiry, searching for information with the help of electronic databases is problematic in many ways: outcomes depend on the content and technicalities of particular databases, of which there are too many; and searching with keywords may only lead to largely irrelevant sources. Snel also points to the changes due to internationalization of research, which make many more sources relevant than in a purely national project, adding to the problems of finding relevant sources. However, here we can also clearly see the upside of online sources: without them, comparative and international projects especially are much more difficult and costly to perform.
      In addition to the article by Snel about sources, the edition of this first half year contains an article about interdisciplinary legal research, and two articles about qualitative empirical research. Johan Wolswinkel, in An Allocation Perspective to Public Law: Limited Public Rights and Beyond, joins an economic perspective with a public law one, and shows how a particular approach from economics can benefit legal research. The gap in legal reasoning when it comes to criteria for allocating public rights can be filled by the economic theory on allocation of scarce resources. The two articles on qualitative research deal with observation research and interviewing, respectively. Nienke Doornbos addresses the method of observation in the context of court proceedings. She provides practical methodological guidelines for conducting court observation research and emphasizes the importance, and the diversity, of the research goals that observation may serve. The article by Urszula Jaremba and Elaine Mak, Interviewing Judges in the Transnational Context, explores the added value of interviewing judging in the context of researching the role of the judiciary in multilevel or globalizing legal systems. Interviews have added value, both in combination with doctrinal legal methods and legal theory and in combination with quantitative methods, because they give insight in the perceptions and working methods of judges. To gain insight in the use of European law and foreign law by judges, interviews can serve to identify what obstacles and promises judges see, even if these opinions are never explicitly laid down in a judgment.

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