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Access_open Empirical Legal Research in Europe: Prevalence, Obstacles, and Interventions

Journal Erasmus Law Review, Issue 2 2018
Keywords empirical legal research, Europe, popularity, increase, journals
Authors Gijs van Dijck, Shahar Sverdlov and Gabriela Buck
AbstractAuthor's information

    Empirical Legal research (ELR) has become well established in the United States, whereas its popularity in Europe is debatable. This article explores the popularity of ELR in Europe. The authors carried out an empirical analysis of 78 European-based law journals, encompassing issues from 2008-2017. The findings demonstrate that a supposed increase of ELR is questionable (at best).
    Moreover, additional findings highlight:

    • An increase for a few journals, with a small number of other journals showing a decrease over time;

    • A higher percentage of empirical articles for extra-legal journals than for legal journals (average proportion per journal is 4.6 percent for legal journals, 18.9 percent for extra-legal journals);

    • Criminal justice journals, environmental journals, and economically oriented journals being more likely to publish empirical articles than other journals;

    • More prestigious journals being more likely to publish empirical articles than less-prestigious journals;

    • Older journals being more likely to publish empirical work than younger journals, but not at an increasing rate;

    • Journals being legal/extra-legal, journals in a specific field, journal ranking, or the age of the journal not making it more (or less) likely that the journal will publish empirical articles at an increasing (or decreasing) rate.
      Considering the lack of convincing evidence indicating an increase of ELR, we identify reasons for why ELR is seemingly becoming more popular but not resulting in more empirical research in Europe. Additionally, we explore interventions for overcoming the obstacles ELR currently faces.


Gijs van Dijck
Professor of Private Law at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

Shahar Sverdlov
Law student at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Gabriela Buck
Law student at Maastricht University, the Netherlands.
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