SSRN has been captured by the enemy of open knowledge.

  1. Free for individuals to upload and download papers,
  2. Sell subscriptions to “e-journals” to universities, where those “e-journals” are just lightly (and often badly) edited e-mail lists of the latest uploads in a given subject area. The idea being, of course, that individual faculty at those schools then have a good way to keep up with the latest research in an area.

So what to do?

  1. Organized as a nonprofit or trust with legal obligations to offer its services for free and remain unowned by any for-profit entity (to protect it from future Elsevier buyouts).
  2. Centered around a web application that allows researchers to upload their papers, and tag them by subject matter, which are then searchable by (a) subject matter tag, and (b) full-text. Anyone can read and search, with no account required or any other restrictions whatsoever.
  3. To maintain quality and replicate the effect of SSRN’s curation, but without the human labor, uploading papers initially open only to faculty members, postdocs, VAPs, and others with terminal degrees and active university affiliations, but expanding over time to independent scholars, graduate students, etc.
  4. Automatic tag-based e-mails, replicating the effect of SSRN’s e-journals, but again without the human labor.
  • The people allowed to post are filtered at the front end.
  • The set of subject matter tags is initially limited in order to avoid thousands of meaningless or redundant tags (perhaps a system of primary tags created by the system and secondary tags created by posters, with the possibility for the secondary tags to be promoted to primary tags with sufficient usage).
  • Readers are given an option to provide feedback on subject matter tags (e.g., by downvote, where a sufficient number of unique downvotes removes the tag from a paper).
  • Perhaps ultimately leveraging text-mining machine learning techniques, once the quantity of papers is sufficiently large, to automatically correct or supply subject matter tags.




Law prof/political scientist writing about con law, political philosophy, data, professional ethics, and justice. And whatever I want.

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store