CFP: Access to Information and Socio-legal Research
Call for Papers Date:
We are seeking papers for a special collection of essays in an issue of the Canadian Journal of Law & Society that will explore researchers’ experiences with gaining access to institutionally held data in pursuit of socio-legal research that is ‘in the public interest’. This collection will be made up of seven to eight short essays (2,500 to 3,000 words each).
Although it has always been a major challenge for socio-legal scholars, gaining access to state institutions has become progressively more difficult. Despite the claims of greater transparency, openness, and public accountability, government agencies – from prisons to school boards – remain highly averse to opening their doors to university researchers. There are a number of reasons why research access may be denied. These range from a perceived lack of need for research due to the existence of ‘in house’ researchers, to the inability of an institution to participate due to fiscal constraints. In other instances, no justification for denying access is provided. In order to pursue their research agendas, socio-legal scholars may use their country’s ‘freedom of information’ laws to access government records, even though this does not guarantee that the researcher will be able to obtain the desired materials. Conversely, when access is granted, socio-legal scholars are often forced to negotiate with the institution on the use and ownership of data collected and many face the threat of having their studies terminated at any time.
In this collection of essays, contributors will examine the different barriers that scholars in Canada, the United States, and other parts of the world, face when trying to gain access to state institutions and the implications that these have for socio-legal research, the role of the academic, and the place of scholarly research in the current climate. Some of the questions that papers may address include (but are not limited to) the following:
- Has it actually become more difficult for socio-legal scholars to gain access to government agencies? How does this vary by jurisdiction?
- How have access to information barriers effected the kind of research being conducted by those in the field?
- What are the broader social, political, economic, and cultural factors that can help us to explain the increasing difficulty that researchers face in obtaining access?
- What are some of the reasons that socio-legal scholars have gained or been denied access to government agencies? What kinds of experiences have socio-legal scholars had in trying to obtain access? What lessons can be learned from these experiences?
- What impact, if any, has the rise of ‘in-house’ research had on the ability of socio-legal scholars to conduct their own investigations of state institutions? What does this mean for the production of independent and critical socio-legal knowledge?
- How have socio-legal scholars used ‘freedom of information’ (FOI) or ‘access to information’ (ATI) requests in the course of conducting their research? Has the use of such requests become a necessary part of socio-legal scholarship? What impact does the use of FOI/ATI requests have on socio-legal research?
- How do state institutions and actors function as ‘gate keepers’, determining the sorts of information available to socio-legal researchers?
- What can we do – both individually and collectively – to compel government agencies to be more open to academic research?
Please signal your interest in contributing to this special collection of essays by emailing the co-editors, Michael Mopas (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Sarah Turnbull (email@example.com).
The deadline to submit your expression of interest is Monday, May 31st, 2010. The deadline to submit completed essays is Monday, August 16th, 2010.
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