Concern over Oxbridge’s dominance in UK’s oldest legal journal

A leading UK legal journal has been accused of failing to guard against bias by not introducing anonymous review practices, while authors linked to Oxbridge are “grossly over-represented” in the publication.

Created in 1885, Quarterly law review is the UK’s oldest legal journal. It describes itself as being “widely acclaimed as a leading platform for academic legal debate in the UK and the common law world”.

But the journal has recently been faced with questions about its selection of academics linked to the universities of Cambridge and Oxford. In its latest edition, 31 of the 45 contributing authors were academics, students or recent Oxbridge graduates – something one lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, said was not atypical.

“Oxbridge only makes up about 1% of the entire legal community, but issue after issue its academics are vastly over-represented in the UK’s oldest and most famous law journal,” he said. -he declares. Times Higher Education.

“If you compare this to Ethics, a newspaper of the same age [1890] but edited blind and subjected to double-blind review, the difference is striking, ”he said, adding that:“ Even though this is a Chicago University Press journal, its academics They do not appear more statistically than academics from any other institution.

Quarterly law review is edited by Peter Mirfield, a retired Oxford law professor, while the publication’s six editors over its 136-year history – two have served for 50 and 35 years respectively – have been based in Oxford. The only other person listed as editor or member of its editorial board is an academic from the University of Cambridge.

“One wonders if the use of a single editor on this journal and the lack of diversity in its editorial direction over the years risks unhealthy self-replication,” said the scholar. THE.

Although the journal is independent from the University of Oxford – it is published by Sweet & Maxwell, a brand owned by Thomson Reuters – the journal’s strong ties to the university, its lack of editorial diversity and its importance in legal studies were likely to benefit Oxford. , He continued.

“This certainly has implications for the Research Excellence Framework, as those who publish in a prestige title like this are more likely to be viewed positively by critics,” he said.

The newspaper did not respond to a request for comment, but a spokesperson for Thomson Reuters explained that the publication has an “editorial advisory committee, with eight distinguished members, which is available for consultation on the general editorial management and to advise on any material changes to the journal’s editorial policies which might rightly be taken into account ”.

The spokesperson confirmed that the newspaper did not use a blind peer review system.

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