Most-Cited Health Law Scholars (with an update on multiple authors)

By Mark A. Hall and I. Glenn Cohen

Based on the law faculty citation analysis done by Greg Sisk, Brian Leiter has compiled “most-cited” rankings of tenured law faculty in a number of different subject areas, but not health law.  Naturally, we would be curious to know how we and colleagues might show up in such a ranking, but more than this, we were curious how the field of Health Law as a whole would look, compared to other fields, and how well different component of health law might be reflected.  Health law (as many people conceive it) is a broad field that includes bioethics, biotechnology, medical malpractice, health care finance and regulation, health policy, and public health.

Using Leiter’s methods and the Sisk data (supplemented as noted below), we compiled a citation-count ranking of health law scholars over the five-year period 2010-2014 (which is the latest currently available from Sisk).  We classify faculty as health law scholars if publications in this field account for the bulk (roughly 2/3) of their more recent citations.  A research librarian at Wake Forest University supplemented the Sisk data by doing citation counts (using his same methods) for an additional two dozen prominent health law scholars who are not on the Sisk list because they are at lower-ranked schools (below the top 70) or are based at schools of medicine or public health.  To ensure maximum comparability between these rankings and those already existing for other legal fields we conformed to Leiter’s presentation, which entailed, among other things, rounding citations to the nearest ten and estimating the age of those ranked. 

Before we present the results, we emphasize that while citation-based rankings can be useful, it is important to evaluate them in context; this requires understanding their benefits, but also their drawbacks – Sisk al. have a good discussion. In the context of health law, specifically, one additional limitation is worth emphasizing: this ranking is based on citations in legal periodicals (as defined by the Sisk-Leiter approach) but much of our field’s work is cited in medical, public health, bioethics, or other journals. Publications in those journals that are cited in legal periodicals are captured, but not the citation of our work in those journals.

Here are the results.  The range of citations is similar to those in the fields of antitrustevidence, family law, tax.  And, the list contains several who write in each of health law’s component areas.

Twenty Most-Cited Health Law Faculty 2010-2014 (inclusive)

Rank Name School Citations Approx. Age in 2017
1 Larry Gostin Georgetown 510 67
2 Mark A. Hall Wake Forest 480 62
3 David A. Hyman Georgetown 360 56
4 I. Glenn Cohen Harvard 320 39
5 John A. Robertson Texas 310 74
6 Mark Rothstein Louisville 300 68
6 Michelle M. Mello Stanford 300 45
6 Frank Pasquale Maryland 300 43
9 Lars Noah Florida 280 52
10 George J. Annas Boston U 270 72
11 Richard J. Bonnie Virginia 260 72
12 William M. Sage Texas 240 57
12 Barry R. Furrow Drexel 240 72
14 Sharona Hoffman Case Western 230 53
15 Lori Andrews Chicago-Kent 220 64
15 Sara Rosenbaum George Washington 220 66
17 David Orentlicher UNLV 210 62
18 Henry T. Greely Stanford 200 65
19 Elizabeth Weeks Leonard Georgia 190 46
19 David M. Studdert Stanford 190 49
Honorable Mention
(not included due to recent retirement)
 Timothy Jost Washington & Lee 350 69
Other Highly Cited Scholars
who Work Partly in Health Law
Russell Korobkin UCLA 750 49
Einer R. Elhauge Harvard 680 56
Bernard Black Northwestern 630 64
Tom  Baker Pennsylvania 450 58
Carl E. Schneider Michigan 380 69

Update: One of our astute readers asked a very good question about how the Leiter-Sisk method and data handles multi-author papers. The answer is, it is complicated. The Bluebook rule for citing publications with 3 or more authors is – first author’s name plus “et al.” The maroon book adopts a similar approach for cases where there are more than three authors. That said, many law reviews do list all authors (or at least the first three) in contravention of these rules.

How does this impact the scores in the Sisk database? It means that non-first authors of three or more author papers are likely undercounted. It also has an effect of privileging first authors of health law textbooks with multiple authors. When we wrote to Sisk about this concern he noted this as a limitation of his method that he has acknowledged in the past, but suggested it is less significant when evaluating faculties as a whole (his main undertaking) but more significant regarding ratings of individual scholars.

This problem affects all fields in law, but it is plausibly more significant in health law since large numbers of co-authors in a single piece is likely more common in our area than in many other areas.

Solving the problem, though, is more difficult. In theory, one could ask all health law scholars in the database to identify the title of every paper on which they were a third or later author, search for that paper, and add any citation to the count that is not already captured within the database. This would be significant additional work, but it may be worth us (or partners) undertaking if we undertake to expand this work.

But beyond the sweat equity there is also a more normative problem: consider a 10 author paper where an individual is the 7th author. Should that count as a full citation, a 7th of a citation, or some diminishing value for each place from first that is not the final position? Being the last author in a medical journal is usually a significant position, but that convention may not be followed in bioethics or other journals. Thus, any attempt to weight authorship positions seems to open a Pandora’s box.

What is the take-away? This is one more important limitation to acknowledge of the Sisk-Leiter method, and should be kept front of mind in particular when considering scholars who tend to write papers with large numbers of authors and/or textbooks with many authors.

The Petrie-Flom Center Staff

The Petrie-Flom Center staff often posts updates, announcements, and guests posts on behalf of others.

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