Health Law Scholar Citation Rankings: A Better Picture This Year

By Scott Burris

Glenn and Mark have done their bit for benchmarking our field with another round of health law professor rankings. It is a largely thankless task, so thank you professors.  Last year, I responded to their list with the observation that any count based on law review publication alone was problematic in assessing the contributions of those in our field whose scholarship is primarily empirical or aimed at the health world.  I offered a suggestive “top scholars list” based on Google Scholar profiles.  Using Google Scholar, which captures articles in all fields, plus books and gray literature, brought a number of different names into the top 20.  Since Google Scholar depends on individuals to create and clean their profiles, my list missed a lot of top scholars without profiles (I am talking about you, Michelle Mello and George Annas,  etc. etc.), but it was enough to suggest that some very productive and much-cited scholars were missed in the Hall-Cohen list.

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Zombie Ideas: Safe Injection Department

Recently, people in Vermont have been talking about launching a Safe Injection Facility (SIF) to address drug harms arising with the opioid epidemic. With more deaths than ever, trying new approaches make sense — especially “new” approaches like SIFs that have two decades of solid international evidence of efficacy behind them.  Several cities are actively considering the same intervention.

One of the biggest barriers is uncertainty about how federal drug control authorities will react.  Although there are reasonable arguments that SIFs for public health do not violate the Controlled Substances Act, and the national opioid task force has broadly called for extraordinary action, there has been no explicit support from the Trump administration and no effort to carve out space in the law from Congress. Read More

Sentinel Policy Surveillance: A New Front in Legal Epidemiology?

Paul Erwin, Associate Editor of the American Journal of Public Health, recently wrote about the establishment of a  Sentinel Practitioner Surveillance System for Policy Change Impact,  or what might be called “sentinel policy surveillance.” The network of twelve diverse health officers will be trying to identify and share instances of harmful impact from Trump administration policies.

Erwin is suitably circumspect about what such a network can do. It is, he writes, no replacement of research, and, indeed, may be reporting perceived or feared effects as often as real ones.  I found the idea intriguing to ruminate on, though.  What follows are some scattered thoughts about the concept. I hope readers will add theirs.  Mostly I am interested in how the practice fits with general policy surveillance and public health law researchRead More

Health Law Rankings — Another Perspective

Glenn and Mark recently published a list of most-cited health law scholars, using the methods generally used for these studies in legal academia.  Like any academic who steadfastly denigrates the importance of lists, I naturally checked right away to see where I ranked, which was somewhere so far down the list that only an outbeak of smallpox at the AALS meeting could ever get me into the top twenty.  Since I was still completely uninterested in this whole ranking issue, my next move was to look at the methods.  And this is where I did have a thought worth sharing.

The source of the data is the JRL library on Westlaw, which I believe primarily covers law reviews and other legal publications.   How often one is cited in law reviews is certainly a good measure of impact within legal scholarsip, but it does not capture (or support) health law as an interdisciplinary field.  Indeed, I think it is arguable that for many of us, our most important impact will be on research and scholarship in other fields.  Does our top-twenty list look different if we draw on a broader database of citations?

I can’t tell you.  That would be a lot of work.  But there is a way to do it “collectively.”  Google tracks citations that appear anywhere in the googleverse and reports them in Google Scholar — if you create a profile. Most of the people in the top 20 in the Hall-Cohen top 20 do not have Google Scholar Profiles, but a few do and the results suggest we might see some differences in impact ranking if we went beyond law reviews:

Name Hall/Cohen cites (rank) Google cites (rank) since 2012
Larry Gostin 510 (1) 7150 (1)
I. Glenn Cohen 320 (4) 1143 (3)
Frank Paquale 300 (6) 1081 (4)
Lars Noah 280 (9) 586 (5)
David Studdert 190 (19) 7129 (2)

Everyone gets many more cites from Google than Westlaw, which reflects some methodological differences but also shows a lot of extra-legal impact.  Larry Gostin is still on top, by quite a distance, but David Studdert — at the bottom of the law review top 20 — comes near to catching him.  (I may as well admit that the Google ranking puts yours truly well above Cohen but nowhere near Studdent and Gostin.)

Why does this matter?  The obvious point is the one I have already made: health law scholars should be aiming to make a difference in health policy, and that is not measured by law review citations alone. For us to thrive as a field, we need more than ever to be engaged with non-lawyers, as my colleagues and I argue for public health law here. Recognizing non-legal citations is also, in my experience, extremely important for supporting young scholars.  If all we recognize and seem to value are law review citations, then junior scholars will only write law review articles. That is not how we build a field of engaged, cross-disciplinary scholars and researchers.  I encourage junior scholars to create Google Scholar profiles and I use them when I am doing promotion and tenure reviews in this list-mad age.

One last point: Google Scholar profiles take about two minutes to create and a very minimal effort to curate (if you care to, you need to eliminate some dupes and misatributions).  Whether you like rankings or transdisciplinary impact, you can help the field at minimal cost by signing up.

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Making a Moral Case for Regulation

Valerie Braithwaite’s chapter in the ANU’s Press’s new Regulatory Theory: Foundations and Applications provides a general introduction to looking at regulation through a social lens.  If regulation is so great, she asks, why do so many people approach it with fear and loathing?

I won’t rehearse her argument here, but instead skip to some key points about how we who appreciate the social good provided by regulation can best make that case. One of ten suggestions she concludes with was particularly resonant to me: “Engage with dissent on moral grounds. Is it right morally to steer the flow of events in the way proposed?”

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Fantastic New Resource on Regulation

Peter Drahos and a roster of the minds that have made RegNet at the Australian National University the hub of regulatory research and theory have put (it seems) all they know into a new, FREE ebook, Regulatory Theory: Foundations and Applications.  It is a comprehensive account of the field, written to serve both as a reference for the essentials and a text book for classes in regulation and governance.  It even has a chapter on regulatory research methods in public health by this correspondent.

I am hoping to conduct a serial book review over the next couple of weeks. Here goes:

The first chapter is an introduction to the field by Drahos and Martin Krygier. It usefully orients the reader to the breadth of the field, a breadth that reflects the spread of regulatory activity beyond the state and across networks. Attention to those two phenomena, indeed, is properly presented as the foundation of the field.  There is a bit of intellectual history, highlighting the sigificance of Ayres and Braithwaite’s Responsive Regulation, and the emergence of RegNet as an intellectual gathering place. (I saw that first hand, and had a little experience of RegNet collegiality, when I spent a semester there and ended up writing an article on Nodal Governance with Drahos and Clifford Shearing — still my most downloaded paper.) Read More

Housing Equity Week in Review

This week was all about fair housing. Particularly, the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing rule and recent attempts to dismantle it. Here’s the round-up for last week, January 29 – February 5, 2017:

  • Two bills are attempting to abolish the Affirmatively Further Fair Housing rule of the Obama administration. A review of Fair Housing, the rule, and the proposed bill in the context of a tradition opposing desegregation, via City Lab
  • Scott Burris and Abraham Gutman contribute to Philly.com and dive into Section 3 of the bill, which bans funds for geo-spatial data on housing disparities and the dangers of that to evidence based policy.
  • Ten States where People Can’t Really Afford Rent.” CheatSheet.org shares the 2016 National Low Income Housing Coalition Out of Reach Report

We’ve talked a little about fair housing before. In case you missed it, we interviewed Christopher Bonastia about his book, “Knocking at the Door” back in November.

Did we miss any big housing, law and equity stories this week? Let us know!

Human Rights Advocacy under Attack

One of the world’s most important human rights law firms is now under attack from a government whose leader has, to put it mildly, a mixed record on human rights.  The firm is the Lawyer’s Collective, which has done some of the most important work within India on HIV, LGBT and gender issues.  The firm’s lawyers have also made great contributions internationally. Indira Jaising has served as a member of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Anand Grover was the UN Special Rapporteur on Right to Health from 2008 to 2014, during which service he issues several fearless reports that helped move the world forward towards an enabling environment for HIV among the most legally marginalized people.

On June 1, the Indian Union Ministry for Home Affairs suspended the firm’s license to receive foreign funding, contending that the Lawyer’s Collective had violated the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. The Lawyer’s Collective faces the prospect of having their license cancelled permanently, which would seriously impact their work. Both the suspension order and the Lawyer’s Collective’s response have been widely reported in the Indian media. Read More

Changing How We Think (and Talk) About Public Health Law

By Scott Burris, JD

Marice Ashe, Donna Levin, Matthew Penn, Michelle Larkin and I have a new piece in the Annual Review of Public Health (also available on SSRN). We set out a “transdisciplinary model of public health law” that encompasses within the core of the field both the traditional public health law practice of lawyers and what we call “legal epidemiology” — all the important public health law functions (from policy design to evaluation) that are typically carried out by people without legal training. I hope you will take a look.

Why this article and a transdisciplinary model? The idea comes out of the experience that the authors have all had trying to promote public health law practice and research. We realized that in spite of the success of the field and its importance to public health, a lot of non-lawyers in public health training, practice and research were uncomfortable with law — even when their work had to do with enforcing it or evaluating its impact.

We realized that we as lawyers were making things worse, by adhering to a traditional view of public health law as purely a practice of lawyers. We found that acknowledging the work of non-lawyers in public health law, conceptualizing key public health law activities in scientific terms, and even borrowing some scientific practices for legal work, were effective ways to change attitudes and improve our impact. Many of us have articles in the pipeline on legal epidemiology, policy surveillance and “the five essential public health law services” that will show the model in action.

I don’t have to tell readers of this blog that public health law is a great field. I hope the concept of transdisciplinary model will help make it a truly integral part of public health.

Read the full article here.

Why Do Refugees Risk the Deadly Boat Crossing to Europe? It’s the Law

By Scott Burris

This morning I heard an NPR story that began, “Why do so many refugees from the Middle East risk the dangerous Mediterranean crossing in rickety boats?”  The answer, in the story, was an account of the miseries of a family stranded in Aleppo.  Why do people risk so much to flee? Because life is so bad where they are.

There is plenty of misery in the war-torn Middle East, but if the question is “why do people flee in dangerous boats run by ruthless smugglers,” NPR did not have the right answer.  Hans Rosling, the Swedish epidemiologist and humanitarian, has offered a better one: the EU regulation that requires airlines that fly in asylum seekers who do not qualify to fly them out again at the airline’s expense. (Watch his video here.) Airlines just won’t allow people without the proper visas to board, even if the law would. Yes, it’s the law that puts people on boats.  Flights from the region’s airports to Europe are cheaper than the deadly boats.  As we are seeing now, many if not most of these refugees qualify for asylum.  EU law does not require asylum seekers to have visas or be granted asylum before they board the plane.  But by placing the economic risk on the airlines, the EU essentially delegates the asylum decision to the most risk averse and least responsible player in the process.

Here’s the math.  The Abdullah Kurdi family of four, whose two children drowned, reportedly paid €2,000 each for the trip, well over $8,000, to get from Turkey to Greece.  On Travelocity today, German Wings had a flight from Istanbul to Berlin with seats at $84.