For those unfamiliar with SSRN, it is one of the most important research resources that I use to find articles that are otherwise not easily available online. SSRN relies on authors making their articles available in PDF format. Why should anyone make their articles available online? Because SSRN uses the most important non-economic incentive there is: recognition. Most academic authors are not economically rewarded for their articles, you publish because you want to advance in your career, publish or perish and all that. SSRN’s killer feature is that it has a counter, so you know exactly how many people have read your articles, which gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling on cold mornings.
These articles are supposed to be made available for everyone to download without restrictions. However, Dan Hunter has blown the whistle on a disturbing new feature on SSRN, some authors have noticed that their articles can only be accessed after the viewer registers with SSRN, which goes completely against the “open” concept. The reason given by SSRN seems to be that this is done to stop authors “gaming” the count by repeatedly downloading articles.
Hunter’s revelation has caused a storm in the Cyberprof mailing list. Some solutions have been suggested, such as self-publication, or taking our papers elsewhere. I must admit that I’m reluctant to take stuff elsewhere, as I would lose my paper count. I know, it is a bit sad, but reputation and bragging rights are as palpable as currency in academic circles.
The most popular idea is to start a collective article with as many co-authors as you can, and post it on SSRN with all of the links, which would offset their results. There is even a blog to continue the collective article created by Orrin Kerr. What we need is a wiki…