Sunday, August 12, 2007

Six Degrees of Cass Sunstein

A recent paper (available here) by Vanderbilt professors Paul Edelman and Tracey George takes the popular thought game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon and applies it to legal scholarship. As the name of the paper ("Six Degrees of Cass Sunstein") would suggest, the authors look for co-authorship links in legal scholarship leading back to University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein.

The paper makes some attempt to establish its own importance, but it's actually more fun than useful. It identifies every Sunstein 1 (the 57 people who have co-authored articles or other publications directly with Cass Sunstein) and Sunstein 2 (the 768 people who have co-authored with Sunstein 1s). The authors invite readers to compute their own Sunstein number. Now I'm a legal practitioner, not an academic or scholar, but I actually have a Sunstein number: Sunstein 4, through the chain Sunstein - John Yoo or Bruce Ackerman [either one works -- and John Yoo is a very odd person to be in my Sunstein chain!] - Harold Koh - Detlev Vagts - me (through an article by Gene Fidell, Detlev Vagts and me in the December 2005 Army Lawyer).

This is the paper's authors' explanation of why they cast Cass Sunstein in the Kevin Bacon role of their game:

We sought to identify a legal scholar with characteristics that make it more likely that she or he is the central hub in the legal collaboration network . . . . We are looking, then, for a scholar who:
• actively collaborates with a range of scholars (lots of edges),
• publishes often and across fields (dispersion of vertexes and edges across academy),
• has achieved a high level of recognition (a nontrivial vertex), and
• will continue to co-author into the foreseeable future (a nondecaying vertex).

Based on those criteria, who would we cast in the Kevin Bacon/Cass Sunstein role if we wanted to play the game with military justice scholarship? Steve Saltzburg, perhaps? If so, what's your Saltzburg number?


John O'Connor said...

No number here. You can't get a number without co-authoring pieces with other people who co-author pieces. I've only had a co-author once, and that was for a non-military justice piece with an associate at my firm who, to my knowledge, hasn't published anything else.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you mean to say that Erdős is the plural form of Erdmann ?

Anonymous said...


Just from this post you can compute
your Sunstein number, 6, if you count blog legal scholarship.