Professors Talk About their Work in New Q&A Series, “Research Matters”

When they’re not teaching, Law School faculty are researching and writing on topics as varied as they are fascinating. They publish on everything – from electoral redistricting to criminal penalties for copyright violations to the practice of sex selection of fetuses.

This scholarly work is well-received in academic circles, but the broader world often doesn’t know about the big ideas and breakthroughs that happen constantly inside the Law School. A new website feature, “Research Matters,” seeks to remedy that. (On the Faculty Research page, see the far right column.)

Every other Wednesday, the Law School Office of Communications publishes a new Q&A with a professor discussing his or her recent work and its impact and relevance to law and society. The format is intended to be informal, conversational, and accessible. It launched in April.

Research Matters was the brainchild of Professor Randy Picker, who also served as the inaugural interviewee, talking about his paper, “Access and the Public Domain.” Since then, the series has covered a proposed a new voting system for corporate shareholders (Eric Posner), the potential for new technologies to impact land use controls (Lee Fennell), and human rights guarantees in national constitutions (Tom Ginsburg). Almost always, the connection to law is clear, but, like our faculty, the topics are very interdisciplinary. The best recent example: Anup Malani’s role in a clinical trial to test the impact advertisements had on the efficacy of allergy medications. (The connection to law, in that case, is that scientific knowledge about drugs can affect health law, regulation, and policy.)

Fourteen professors and their work have been highlighted so far. The plan is to ultimately feature at least one Q&A with each member of the faculty.

Research Matters is important because the scholarship part of a professor’s job is often undervalued, Picker said.

“Occasionally, I hear faculty research discussed as if it is some obscure activity indulged in by faculty,” Picker said. “If anyone thinks that, it is the fault of faculty for not explaining what we do. I can’t teach something if I don’t understand it. Faculty research is important in the way that it creates and shapes ideas and then shows up in the classroom. And the point of Research Matters is to try to make that process clear to all.”

The Research Matters installments thus far: