Thursday, January 17, 2008

Digitising legal scholarship

Is anyone aware of any searchable online database of Indian law journals? I searched for the websites of Journal of Indian Law Institute and Indian Bar Review (well, the former had more like a webpage than a website, and a google search on the latter shows up Bar Council of India Rules for the first hit!). I looked up the journal pages of prominent law schools (those that had one) - no academic content whatsoever. Even subscription research websites like Manupatra do not have anything more than primary legal material. The only useful, but limited, research tool is OPAC - a freely available searchable index of most Indian legal journals created by the National Law School Library.

As a student at NLS about 4 years ago, I made feeble attempts to get the law school journals freely available on its website. In any case, the journals did not generate revenue and putting them up online could only increase readership, besides making useful contribution to scholarship. Nothing came of it.

Then Lawrence (of the Liang fame) came up with Lex Libre - its webpage describes it as "An Open Archive of Student projects/articles/ working papers contributed to the public domain". With eight papers on the site, most of which were put up at its inception, I don't think it went very far (although I continue to get publication requests for my embarrassingly half-baked undergraduate research papers put up there - the need for accessible legal research is clearly desperate).

At least with respect to published articles, law-schools should take the initiative to put up past issues of their journals online. Surely Manupatra or IndLaw also have enough business incentive to take this up - searchable subscription databases would perhaps be better than absolutely nothing that exists at the moment.

Some of this stuff must be good ... only if someone could get to read it. Any thoughts (if some databases actually exist and I have ranted in vain, please enlighten anyway)?
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