I recently learned that journal submission in the field of law is very different from other fields of study. In particular, I learned that when a person submits a paper to a law journal, the person must attach a CV.

This sounds to me the exact opposite of the purpose of peer review, where papers should be judged according to the merits of the paper, and not the person.

What is the reasoning behind this practice?

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    It's not my field, but it may be that only the editor, not the reviewers, see the CV. And it might be because of issues of credibility in a sensitive field such as law. – Buffy Aug 23 '19 at 9:57
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    Law does publication a lot differently than other fields. Journals are run by students rather than any sort of peer review; they do parallel submission also. Generally, what gets into law journals is determined in part by the social status of the writer and CVs help them do that. Historically this meant that people who were prominent were likely to get published. In the last few years allegedly some journals have gone out of their way to have articles by minorities, which some people see as a legitimate corrective action, while others see it as damaging the signal to noise ratio. – JoshuaZ Aug 23 '19 at 12:03
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    Apparently, in law publishing, articles can be rejected based on the CV. – Anyon Aug 23 '19 at 19:11
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    @Anyone, That's a very interesting, and disturbing link. They indicate there that they use the CV to reject outright anyone who isn't a law professor. They also say that if the CV indicates they aren't publishing successfully that apparently makes rejection more likely. I have difficulty imagining steps better engineered to encourage groupthink and to emphasize status over rigor or originality. – JoshuaZ Aug 23 '19 at 19:53
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    So weird! Surprised, are there other fields like this? What about doctors? – kosmos Feb 15 at 11:31

I'm an occasional reviewer for a prestigious law journal in Canada. I mainly deal with articles that talk about data science in the law field.

Now, you're more likely to listen to my answer specifically because I stated my credentials. I gave you a reason to listen to me: I'm an authority on the subject. The main reason they ask for your CV is to give you an opportunity to do the same.

In my case, if the author doesn't have anything in his or her resume that approximates professional experience with data science, I'll pay closer attention. This is because, in my experience, the person is more likely to try to sweep his or her lack of understanding of a specificities under the rug. For example, he might talk about p-values and draw conclusions based on them, but then fail to mention the numerical values and/or the interpretation context (i.e. fail to define "highly correlated", etc.).

In my opinion, the CV is an intuitively valuable data point for the reviewer. Just remember that it's one piece of information out of several.


I want to add that the CV alone does not and should not change the outcome. As a reviewer though, if you're talking about tech and I see that you have no relevant experience in it whatsoever, it helps me give you better feedback. A lot. I regularly take the time to give thorough explanations in my comments and the depth of my interventions will vary based on the CV. If you have experience in say statistics and you mess up p-values, I'll rip into you. It's that simple. Don't waste my time when you should know better. If you have no experience and make broad generalizations that turn out to be false, I will also rip into you, but I might be generous enough to offer general advice. If you have no experience and you make a slight mistake, then I'll be kind and helpful even if I don't accept your paper right away just because you're from Harvard. I'll provide links, book titles, articles, etc.

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    I strongly disagree with this. A manuscript should be judged on its own merit, and one would believe the reviewer herself or himself is sufficiently knowledgeable to detect incorrect analysis of a p-value. Indeed incorrect analysis on the part of the author should be disqualifying, irrespective of the CV. – ZeroTheHero Feb 15 at 3:09
  • @ZeroTheHero do you work in law, though? – Allure Feb 15 at 8:03
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    @Allure I do not. I simply observe it is already difficult to fight - when they occur -implicit biases based on academic provenance of a manuscript. There is a way to make sure that prestigious scholars get published: an invited paper advertised as such will do that. – ZeroTheHero Feb 15 at 13:55
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    @IaNick Asking for a CV just reinforces the perception that reviewers will care more about the name of the school. – ZeroTheHero Feb 15 at 14:48
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    @ShihabShahriarKhan I don't work in law, but it seems to be a unique field in that it has elements that are subjective and opinion based, as certain aspects of law could be interpreted in various ways (and those are the focus of legal journal articles, not clear-cut issues that are just for textbooks), but also some of these opinions turn out to be objectively right and wrong depending on whether courts will agree with them. So it matters if the author is somebody who's opinion courts will respect, because that may turn their opinion into precedent and fact. – Peteris Feb 15 at 20:24

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