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Yet Another Look at Health Law Citations

By Scott Burris

Brian Leiter has published his list of ten most-cited health law professors, and there’s a slightly expanded version on this blog thanks to Mark Hall and Glenn Cohen. They both use the Sisk data, which draws solely from the Westlaw journals file.

But the field of health law makes as big a scholarly contribution outside the legal literature as in, which is important when we think of who we write for and how health law faculty are assessed. As I have in the past, I took a down and dirty look at citations beyond Westlaw journals using the Google Scholar profile. (If you prefer Web of Science, there’s this list from a couple of years ago.)

Between us, Google and I have some limitations compared to Sisk and Leiter. I have not systematically identified and searched all health law profs, and Google does not clean up duplicates and attribution errors in profiles (leaving that to the individuals profiled). Moreover, listing is voluntary: scholars have to take a minute to create a profile or their citations are, as the poet said, writ on water. Half of the people on Leiter’s list and many other likely candidates for top-ten status have not set up profiles, as far as I could detect. These include Leiter listers Nicholas Bagley, Michele Goodwin, David Hyman, Mark Rothstein, George Annas, and Henry Greely; as well as luminaries like Sara Rosenbaum, Wendy Parmet, Diane Hoffman James Hodge, and Sydney Watson. Nonetheless, Google is a huge, discipline-blind vacuum cleaner for citations, picking them up in any digital book, article, report or website. Thus, it gives us a sense of the influence of health law scholars in the wider world of research.

“Methods”: I searched Google Scholar profiles for everyone on Leiter’s list, everyone on my last list of Google Scholar rankings, and another 20 or so health law professors that came to mind or popped up on profile co-author list. I confined myself to U.S.-based professors (sorry, Steven Hoffman, 4934 citations). I used the citation count “since 2016.” Google also counts lifetime cites and offers an h-index and an i-10 index.

Here are the results:

Rank Name School Citations Leiter Ranking
1 Lawrence Gostin Georgetown University 14579 1
2 Aaron Kesselheim Harvard University 11752 N/A
3 David Studdert Stanford University 8710 N/A
4 Michelle Mello Stanford University 6818 8
5 Mark Hall Wake Forest University 4209 4
6 I. Glenn Cohen Harvard University 3793 2
7 Kevin Outterson Boston University 3791 N/A
8 Leo Beletsky Northeastern University 3313 N/A
9 Scott Burris Temple University 3199 9
10 Lindsay Wiley UCLA 2350 N/A

Larry’s cross-list pre-eminence is no surprise. Only one person who both had a place on the Leiter list and had a Google profile dropped out of the top ten. Such insight as can come from this exercise lies, I would argue, in the new names. Aaron Kesselheim (who teaches at a medical school, and so was excluded from Leiter’s study) and David Studdert don’t register with Leiter, but get their due here. (David’s Stanford colleague, Michelle Mello, jumps from 8 to 4.) Two Bostonians of note — Kevin Outterson and Leo Beletsky — join the top 10, reflecting their extremely influential work on, respectively, microbial resistance and drug policy. I’m particularly happy to see my one-time student Leo on the list (and I suspect I may be riding his coat-tails). Finally, it seems fitting that one of the indispensable legal voices on COVID-19, Lindsay Wiley, hits the list at number 10 with a bullet. Daniel Goldberg (2133) and Leslie Francis (2036) made up the next tier, close behind.

Leiter has an addendum to his list, noting people with big counts but primary interests beyond health law. For my list, Frank Pasquale, number 4 last time, and with 6069 citations this time, was dropped: most of his recent and high-cite publications are in technology policy.

I will conclude with two points I made last time. First, recognizing non-legal citations is an extremely important way to support young scholars who should be free to break disciplinary bounds. If all we recognize and seem to value are law review citations, then junior scholars will only write law review articles. Second, if you are not on this list and think you should be, or you just want to support interdisciplinary work, make your own Google Scholar profile. It’s easy.

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