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The Cambridge Law Faculty has just joined the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) Working Paper Series (WPS). This means that on a number of occasions each year the SSRN will distribute by e-mail an issue devoted to the Cambridge WPS and a repository of the papers will be available on SSRN. See also the Oxford WPS archive.

The Cambridge Law Faculty has agreed to pay a sizeable annual subscription fee to SSRN to launch the WPS. The rationale is that the submission of working papers on SSRN provides a valuable means for members of the Cambridge Law Faculty to publicize their work and to bolster national and international recognition of their scholarship.

This initiative can only succeed if members of the Cambridge Law Faculty in fact submit their scholarship to SSRN. This will involve something of a culture shift, as only a small minority of Faculty members have ever submitted papers. (A sizeable minority have had papers, or more likely abstracts, submitted on their behalf by co-authors, journals or publishers.)

To facilitate this change in culture, guidance is provided here on 1) signing up for SSRN, 2) searching the SSRN library, 3) subscribing to SSRN journals, and 4) submitting papers. The guidance presumes a lack of prior familiarity with SSRN. Those who are generally familiar with SSRN but want to know more about submitting papers can skip directly to guidance on submission of papers.

Answers to various questions not dealt with here are provided at the SSRN FAQ.

  1. Signing Up for SSRN. It is possible to do basic SSRN searches without signing up but a wider range of search functions is available to those who have signed up.
  2. Searching. Basic SSRN searching is oriented around searching by title and author name, but those who have signed up for SSRN can also access papers by SSRN journal and topic.
  3. Subscribing. SSRN organizes its working papers into journals. Those who have signed up to SSRN are eligible to subscribe to all Legal Scholarship Network (LSN) journals for free, as well as a number of journals relating to other disciplines. Subscribers to a particular journal receive periodically issues from that journal in the form of an e-mail that provides abstracts of the papers and links to the full papers. The Cambridge WPS will be a Law Research Center Paper to which registered users of SSRN will be able to subscribe. SSRN deems those who sign up to be subscribers to some journals, meaning these will be received without a user actively subscribing.
  4. Submitting Papers. With the submission of papers, for those unfamiliar with the process, there are two major potential areas of concern:

How Do I Submit Papers?

Basic instructions on how to submit papers are available on SSRN's site. On SSRN’s advice, however, for the purposes of getting the Cambridge Law Faculty WPS off to a strong start, all paper submissions will be made on Faculty’s behalf by Daniel Bates. So, in order to submit a paper to SSRN you should provide Daniel with:

  • A copy of the paper, preferably in pdf format
  • An abstract of the paper
  • Keywords describing the paper
  • JEL (Journal of Economic Literature) Codes, if any.  For papers lacking an economic element, a JEL code in the K1, K2, K3 or K4 categories should be appropriate.
  • A list of journals to which the paper should be submitted for distribution. You should review the journals available to identify the journals in question. It is important that this be done with some care, because papers may only appear slowly, if at all, in the appropriate subject matter journals if the selection process is left to SSRN

Submission to SSRN is free.

It is possible to submit revised versions of papers. SSRN says about this:

"To revise one of your submissions, sign in to SSRN. Click on the "My Papers" link in the menu to the left. Click on the blue "Revise" button located to the left of the Abstract ID number of the corresponding submission and make the necessary changes. When you are finished making your changes, please be sure to click the "Submit to SSRN" button (located on the last page of the revision process)."

Which Papers Can I Submit?

SSRN provides some guidance on this. The most salient aspects of the guidance are as follows:

Is submission of a paper to SSRN tantamount to prior submissions by scholarly refereed journals?

We are unaware of any journals that consider SSRN's eLibrary or the email abstracting eJournals to be "prior publication" since our services are basically an aggregation of working papers and not a refereeing process. If an author requests it, we will immediately remove their paper from the SSRN eLibrary.

Does submission to SSRN restrict in any way what I can do with my paper?


Author Retention of Rights

SSRN is dedicated to preserving authors' rights to their own materials. Authors retain full rights to any materials they provide to SSRN. We take only a non-exclusive, revocable license to post on SSRN, and distribute through our website and electronic abstracting eJournals, the materials that an author provides to us. Authors may grant reuse rights through a Creative Commons or similar license embedded in an electronic file.

In practical terms, decisions Law Faculty members make about submitting papers will depend in large measure on their publication plans. It is being assumed here that the paper in question is unpublished.

Journal submission

If an academic has drafted a paper and has not yet submitted to any journal, then submission to SSRN should not be problematic in any respect. The academic will have and will retain copyright in this version of the paper. If the paper is subsequently submitted and accepted by a journal, the paper will in all likelihood be amended as a result of reviewer’s comments. The journal will likely have copyright over that version of the paper. However, the academic will retain copyright over the version originally submitted to SSRN, so there is no reason to remove the paper.

A journal conceivably may have a policy discouraging SSRN submission, but this is rare. The Modern Law Review used to have such a policy, but has now apparently dropped it. If a paper has been submitted to SSRN and an academic opts to submit the paper to a journal that discourages SSRN submissions, then the academic can request that the paper be removed.

The Cambridge Law Journal has recently issued guidance on SSRN submissions that makes it clear that Law Faculty members are free to submit papers to the CLJ after posting on SSRN. If the paper is accepted by the CLJ, the CLJ requests that the Law Faculty member amend the SSRN posting to draw attention to its forthcoming publication.

Book chapters

If an academic who has drafted a paper and submits it to SSRN is subsequently asked to submit the paper for publication in a book, the academic should not be under any compunction to remove the paper from SSRN. They should, as a matter of courtesy, likely tell the editor/publisher issuing the invitation that a draft version of the paper is available on SSRN. Typically, this will be just fine, particularly because a revised version of the paper will likely be published. In the unlikely event an editor/publisher has objections to the paper remaining on SSRN, the paper can be removed.

If an academic is asked to draft a paper from scratch for an edited book or to provide a chapter for a book, then permission should be sought from the editor/publisher before submitting the paper to SSRN. In this instance, editors/publishers may well be concerned that SSRN availability will harm sales, and, copyright issues aside, the academic should respect these concerns.