Last Wednesday, someone in Hamburg, Germany, downloaded a paper by Geoffrey R. Stone right around the time someone in Nairobi was accessing a paper by Aziz Huq and someone in Taipei was pulling up a paper by Richard Posner.
Law School scholarship was circling the globe in a digital flurry: an Eric Posner piece to the Bahamas; a Todd Henderson article to Ontario, Canada; a Douglas G. Baird paper to Phoenix; and a piece co-authored by Thomas J. Miles and Cass Sunstein to Rio de Janeiro. And not just the newer scholarship: in London, someone downloaded a 1975 paper by R.H. Helmholz, and in Denmark, someone grabbed a 1983 paper by William Landes.
This was typical activity for Chicago Unbound, the 14-month-old online repository that has made the faculty’s work more accessible than ever and has illustrated just how far, and how frequently, Law School scholarship travels. Still, the otherwise-ordinary day represented an important milestone: that evening “Positive and Negative Constitutional Rights,” a 1986 paper by longtime Professor David P. Currie, became the 500,000th publication downloaded from Chicago Unbound.
“Not only is Chicago Unbound getting our scholarship out there — as seen by the half million downloads — but it’s doing it under the UChicago brand. It reinforces the connection between our scholars and the Law School,” said Deputy Dean Tom Ginsburg, Leo Spitz Professor of International Law. “It has been an unbelievable success. It is far exceeding our expectations.”
On average, about 875 works are downloaded each day from Chicago Unbound — a roughly 17 percent increase from the site’s daily average of about 750 a year ago. Users from 171 different countries have downloaded scholarship; the most frequent international visitors hail from the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, India, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Hong Kong.
“Surpassing the half-millionth download is a significant accomplishment in the life of this young repository,” said Sheri Lewis, Director of the D’Angelo Law Library. “I am extremely proud of the library’s role in this important Law School effort and of the talented staff that has made it possible.”
Chicago Unbound, developed by the D’Angelo Law Library and the Law School’s Office of Communications, contains about 5,500 works published by current faculty, as well as about 1,500 publications by select historical faculty — numbers that are growing as new works are published and older ones are scanned and added. The collection contains the complete working paper series from Law School research centers, other Law School publications, and the Crosskey and Fulton lectures. The library is working on adding the entire run of the Chicago Journal of international Law, its predecessor, the University of Chicago Roundtable, as well as the alumni publication, the University of Chicago Law School Record. Eventually, everything published in the University of Chicago Law Review and the University of Chicago Legal Forum will be added, as well as audio and visual materials from lectures and other events. Chicago Unbound also has tables of contents and citation information for the Journal of Law and Economics and the Journal of Legal Studies.
“The faculty wants their work to be read, and they want it to be as accessible as possible,” Lewis said. “Chicago Unbound accomplishes that well. It is a public site that makes the work easy to find and easy to access.”
The project began in early 2013 under former D’Angelo Law Library Director Judith M. Wright, who retired in June 2013. Since then, many of D’Angelo’s librarians have been involved in building the database and uploading new items to the collection. Chicago Unbound is built on bepress’s Digital Commons platform, which is designed to ensure that Law School faculty scholarship is easily findable when someone searches the internet for research on a particular topic.
“Because of what is sometimes referred to as ‘the Google juice’ — the search engine optimization — in the Digital Commons platform, these results tend to come to the top,” Lewis said. “We all know that the first couple of results you see on Google are the ones that get the attention.”
The New York Times has linked to Chicago Unbound when citing Law School faculty scholarship, including a January reference to a paper by Kirkland & Ellis Distinguished Service Professor of Law Eric Posner and Assistant Professor Adam S. Chilton, as well as a December 2014 reference to a 1982 Harvard Law Review paper by Professor Frank Easterbrook, a judge on the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and a Senior Lecturer at the Law School.
The platform also allows the library to track usage, providing useful data on the reach of faculty scholarship. Chicago Unbound’s front page even offers a “real-time readership” world map that shows downloads as they happen.
For Ginsburg, who focuses on international law, Chicago Unbound gives him insight into the global reach of faculty work.
“I write on countries all over the world,” he said, “and to see that my work is having an impact all over the world is, of course, really exciting.”
A University of Chicago Law School news release