Research Databases

I received a flyer today from UVic’s Technology Transfer Office giving me some information about a research database called “flintbox”. It appears to be designed as a central place for all Canadian universities to disseminate, download, and licence research. Individual researchers post descriptions of their research.

I could only find one project that interested me – an open journal system” project developed at UBC which gives open sources access to the public.

Technology transfer is not particularly new to academic institutions and research centres, and I’m sorry this is so university-centric, but it brought me back to an idea I have which I think may be a germ of a good idea and I’d appreciate some comments from SLAWers. Looking at research repositories like those at NELLCO or the Berkeley Electronic Press
there doesn’t seem to be any equivalent repository for Canadian legal research projects or papers-in-progress.

Maybe I’m missing some sites I don’t know about, but it would be helpful to hear what others have to say on this point.

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Comments

  1. It always struck me as slightly ironic that Osgoode’s part-time Masters programmes generate literally hundreds of major research papers / mini-theses – all of which must be submitted in digital form – and that this corpus of scholarship just rests on the shelf.
    Some years ago Jacob Ziegel’s students in a Consumer Law Workshop bound their papers together, since there was so little published that literally anything was a useful addition.
    Even if we don’t want to clutter up the ether, surely the A papers would be better than nothing.

  2. Neil, it’s possible, though I don’t know for sure, that Osgoode would be interested in your idea. I know that it’s important to find other scholars to collaborate with on occasion, and a place where one’s interests and work in progress could be discovered would be helpful. And, too, now that there are some research projects of signifiicant size in law schools, exetending over years, a place to “pre-print” ongoing results might be useful.

  3. I think the Legal Research Network, part of SSRN, picks up some of the slack here, but not entirely – see:

    http://www.ssrn.com/lsn/

    U of T Law and Queen’s Law are part of the research paper series and I know that a number of U of T law profs would post working papers for comments, etc. The comments above by Simon C. about Prof. Ziegel’s conference papers is well taken; given the ease of electronic publishing, these should be put online; we often received requests for past conference papers where the print version had gone missing or was not added to the library’s collection.

  4. There is a huge resevoire of open source products, talent, and experience out there for setting this sort of thing up. The Open Journal System Neil referrs to is at http://pkp.sfu.ca/ojs/. See my previous post (http://www.slaw.ca/2006/02/21/ip-and-open-access-discussions-begin-to-converge/#comments) for some others, and some resources on the issues of copyright, which can be one of the barriers to a project like this.

    The culture in academia that resists this kind of information sharing has been characterized as the “academic-publishing industrial complex” by Siva Vaidhyanathan in his newly-minted article “Critical Information Studies: A bibliographic manifesto” Cultural Studies 20 (2006): 292-315. See http://www.nyu.edu/classes/siva/archives/002930.html.

  5. I appreciate all the comments and it seems there is a germ of an idea here, I have discussed it with my own Dean, Andrew Petter, who is willing to take the concept to a meeting of the Canadian Council of Law Deans, but it would require a more formal plan and buy in from all the Canadian law schools, or most of them anyway.

    Is this a possible collaborative SLAW project?

  6. Neil, say hello to Andrew for me.

    I’d been wondering whether this could be a Slaw project, and I think it might be possible. In essence what’s wanted is a repository plus a rhetorical superstructure aimed at getting people to contribute material. There are issues about what software and functionality are desirable — and about scalability and portability (what if it grows? what if it needs to be transferred?) among others. It could be that Slaw could seed the thing, start it somehow, and have it picked up by others. Or Slaw could partner with some institution.

    What we could bring is the expertise of our members in the matters of research and categorization etc. What we lack is money and server space (and perhaps software).

    More thinking?

  7. Just some further thoughts on this, and in response to Ted’s comments – there are existing services such as SSRN that does this that institutions and researchers can subscribed to – but these tend to be mixed jurisdictions. The reason I think a pan Canadian solution is in order is that, and particularly since the advent of the Charter, have a mature jurisprudence and distinctive legal culture, much as we now have a distinctive literature. As Simon C. and others have said here, it is unthinkable not to have an international point of view at this point in Canadian law.

    I think Canadian researchers, be they academic or not, would benefit from knowing the scope and nature of other legal research initiatives and publications in Canada .

    So saying, I’m not sure at which point where to run with this, except in the general direction of the other goalpost.