New Vice-Chair for AALL Empirical Research Caucus

Alissa Black-Dorward, the Empirical Research Specialist at Fordham University has agreed to serve as the Vice-Chair for the AALL Empirical Research Caucus.  We are delighted that Alissa agreed to assist with the caucus when due to personal reasons Iantha Haight was no longer able to serve.

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ERC Merchandise available for purchase

If your interested in purchasing some ERC Merchandise, please visit

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ProQuest sponsored the Empirical Research Caucus Meeting at AALL.  The sponsorship made possible the printing of promotional brochures for the ERC table in the Exhibit Hall.  In addition to the sponsorship, ProQuest’s Daryl Newhouse provided a useful presentation of ProQuest Statistical products at the meeting.

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Empirical Research Design Workshops offered by Northwestern Law School

If your institution has researchers interested in additional training on research design, information on workshops offered by Northwestern  Law School may be of interest.

Research Design for Causal Inference: Summer Workshops at Northwestern

MAIN WORKSHOP (MONDAY – FRIDAY, AUGUST 15-19, 2011): FULL-WEEK INTRODUCTION TO RESEARCH DESIGN FOR CAUSAL INFERENCE: Overview of the core methods for credible causal inference from observational data, where part of the sample is “treated” in some way, the control group is drawn from the rest of the sample, but the researcher controls neither the assignment of units to treatment nor administration of the treatment. Registration deadline: August 2, 2011.

BAYESIAN WORKSHOP (MONDAY – WEDNESDAY, JULY 11-13, 2011): Bayesian methods for causal inference, including multiple imputation of missing “potential outcomes”, Markov chain Monte Carlo (MCMC) simulations, including Gibbs sampling, and other flexible model specifications. Registration deadline: June 24, 2011.

For a day-by-day outline of topics covered, please use the links above.

OVERVIEW OF THE MAIN WORKSHOP: Research design for causal inference is at the heart of a “credibility revolution” in empirical research. We will cover the design of true randomized experiments and contrast them to observational studies. We will assess the kinds of causal inferences one can and cannot draw from a research design, threats to valid inference, and research designs that can mitigate those threats.

Most empirical methods courses begin with the methods. We start instead with the goal of causal inference, and discuss how to design research to come closer to that goal. The methods reflect the goal and are often adapted to the needs of a particular study. Some of the methods we will discuss are covered in PhD programs, but rarely in depth, and rarely with a focus on causal inference and on which methods to use for messy, real-world datasets with limited sample sizes. We will illustrate selected methods with real data and Stata code.

OVERVIEW OF THE BAYESIAN WORKSHOP: Credible causal inference often requires researchers not to rely on the linearity and normality assumptions underlying classical regression. Bayesian imputation and simulation methods provide many of the analytic tools for doing so. We will cover the core Bayesian methods for research design and analysis of observational studies.

We begin with the goal of causal inference and the centrality of research design, and discuss how Bayesian methods allow research designs that better achieve that goal. The workshop will include an introduction to Winbugs, the principal public domain Bayesian inference software.

TARGET AUDIENCE: Quantitative empirical researchers (faculty and graduate students) in social science, including law, political science, economics, many business-school areas (finance, accounting, management, marketing, etc), sociology, education, psychology, etc. – indeed anywhere that causal inference is important.

TEACHING FACULTY: We are fortunate to have recruited outstanding experts in causal research design to teach the workshop sessions.

Joshua Angrist (MIT) (days 1 & 2)
Guido Imbens (Harvard University) (day 3)
Alberto Abadie (Harvard University) (day 4)
Theodore Eisenberg (Cornell University)
Daniel E. Ho (Stanford University) (day 5)

Donald B. Rubin (Harvard University) (day 1)
Jeff Gill (Washington University in St. Louis) (days 2 & 3)

Bernard Black (Northwestern University, Law and Kellogg School of Management)
Mathew McCubbins (University of Southern California)

QUESTIONS ABOUT THE WORKSHOPS: Please email Bernie Black: or Mat McCubbins:

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Grant Opportunity for Empirical Research on Law and Economics

The following grant opportunity was recently posted to SSRN:

Request for Proposals: Policy Relevant Empirical Research on Law and Economics

Searle Civil Justice Institute, George Mason University Law & Economics Center

INTRODUCTION: The Searle Civil Justice Institute (SCJI) is a public policy institute based at George Mason University’s Law & Economics Center. SCJI’s core mission is to provide research regarding the impact of laws and regulations on economic growth that is analytically rigorous, balanced, accessible, and useful to policy makers. SCJI works diligently to maximize the effectiveness of such research through large-scale public policy conferences, public policy reports, and an extensive communications strategy.

SCJI’s primary focus is on conducting high-quality, large-scale, empirical research that has direct policy relevance. Each study involves the collection of a substantial amount of data, performance of statistical and econometric analyses, and production of an SCJI policy report within a timeframe of 6-12 months. SCJI empirical studies are designed to produce fact-based findings, undergo external peer review, and follow a detailed research protocol.

What distinguishes SCJI from both traditional academic research centers and Washington think tanks is that it targets leading academics from respected institutions and various disciplines to form collaborative teams that are able to view specific research questions from multiple angles. In addition, an in-house research team of econometricians and lawyers, as well as significant financial resources, allows SCJI to engage in data collection and outreach efforts that often exceed the means of individual academics.

SCJI is seeking proposals for large-scale empirical projects that will result in policy-relevant, fact-based findings. Authors need not have empirical expertise, but research questions should be answerable using data that can be hand-collected or obtained from another organization. If necessary, SCJI will pair substantive experts with methodological experts for proposals it chooses to fund. SCJI will select proposals through a three-stage process.

STAGE 1: CALL FOR PRELIMINARY STATEMENTS OF RESEARCH PROJECTS: SCJI requests Preliminary Statements of Research Projects, not to exceed one page. The Preliminary Statements should include a brief description of the policy issue(s) and the proposed empirical research questions. Aside from being policy relevant and topical, research projects should fall into one of the following categories:

– Class actions and aggregate litigation
– Criminalization of corporate conduct
– State and/or Federal False Claims Acts/qui tam/whistleblowers
– Consumer protection (e.g., consumer arbitration and consumer protection acts)
– States Attorneys General scope of enforcement authority/retention of private counsel
– Third-party financing of litigation
– Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (e.g., pleading standards, e-discovery, preservation)
– Expert evidence rules (e.g., Daubert, Frye, and gatekeeping standards)
– State and federal preemption/government standards defense
– Judicial elections and impartiality/judicial quality and effectiveness

SCJI will review these Preliminary Statements to determine which should proceed to stage 2.

STAGE 2: DEVELOPMENT OF FORMAL RESEARCH PROPOSAL AND PRESENTATION AT RESEARCH WORKSHOP: SCJI will pay an honorarium of $5,000 to selected authors of feasible, relevant, high-impact Preliminary Statements to more formally develop a research proposal. These, second stage, research proposals will need to include the following: an executive summary of two pages or less describing the proposal for a non-academic audience; a clear statement of the policy issue(s) to be studied; background and motivations; the specific empirical research questions; potential policy implications; proposed analyses and basic research plan; data needs, sources and estimated costs; and a timeline detailing milestones and deliverables.

Formal research proposals will be presented for review at a Research Workshop at George Mason University School of Law. SCJI will utilize the Research Workshop to determine which proposals will be fully funded in stage three.

SCJI will reserve the exclusive right to fund proposals presented at the Research Workshop for one year. If SCJI does not decide to fund a presented proposal within one year of presentation at the Research Workshop, the author(s) may pursue the project individually.

STAGE 3: MANAGE AND COMPLETE THE SCJI RESEARCH PROJECT: SCJI will fully support certain accepted proposals by paying author(s) to lead the research efforts, providing in-house econometricians and legal experts as project staff, paying for necessary data (which includes employing large numbers of Research Assistants to find and code data that might otherwise by unavailable), and funding a comprehensive communications strategy for the final Public Policy Report. On average, excluding honorariums to authors, SCJI spends between $70,000 – $100,000 to research and promote each project.

PROPOSAL SUBMISSION PROCEDURE: Initial Preliminary Statements of Research Proposals, not to exceed one page, must be received by June 15, 2011 in order to receive full consideration for the 2011-12 funding cycle. Please send Preliminary Statements electronically to:

SCJI will request a full proposal from selected authors by July 8, 2011.

The 2011 SCJI Empirical Research Workshop will take place in September 2011.

FURTHER INFORMATION:For further information, please contact:
Samantha Zyontz
Senior Research Associate, Searle Civil Justice Institute
George Mason University School of Law
3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201


For additional information about the Law & Economics Center, please visit:

For additional information about the Searle Civil Justice Institute, please visit:

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Slides Available: ASIS&T Summit on Research Data Access and Preservation (RDAP)

Slides from ASIS&T’s 2nd Research Data Access and Preservation (RDAP) Summit held March 31-April 1, 2011 are posted on slideshare. View the full conference program here.

I recommend Joey Comeaux (NCAR), Steven Worley (NCAR), and Cliff Jacobs’ (NSF) presentation entitled Successful Data Curation for Large Data Archives, specifically the discussion about sustainable data curation. Sustainable curation has been on my mind lately, particularly after Amazon’s cloud crash last week. Comeaux et al. identify six requirements for sustainability:

  1. Stable funding
  2. Knowledgeable/consistent staffing
  3. Robust storage
  4. Backups
  5. Partnerships
  6. Formats

#2-#4 and likely #6 are doable provided #1, stable funding, is available. In order to have stable funding, there must be a consistent commitment to data preservation at institutional and individual levels. As a librarian in this era of morphing collection development policies, I am concerned about insufficient funding levels to maintain growing data collections. #5, partnerships, is key to maximizing resources across institutions.

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Meet Us in Philadelphia – Empirical Research Caucus Meeting at AALL 2011

If you haven’t seen the meeting schedule for the 2011 American Association of Law Librarians Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, you might not know that Empirical Research Caucus meeting is scheduled at Noon on Sunday,  July 24th.  I hope that you will be able to attend.  We will be discussing current issues in empirical legal research and the organization of the caucus (including bylaw, officers, and committees).

We are delighted that ProQuest has agreed to sponsor our meeting and to provide a brief demonstration of ProQuest statistical resources.

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