Hungarian open access online encyclopaedia
of legal scholarship
1. Background – the internet as a new medium of legal scholarship
Methods of academic publication have considerably changed during the last ten years: Online publication has acquired an ever-increasing role. In addition to websites publishing working papers – the Social Science Research Network (ssrn.com), for example, contains more than 400,000 uploaded articles and almost half a million abstracts in the field of social sciences – scholarly journals also put more and more emphasis on online publication.
This line of development has also impacted the general practice of legal scholarly publication. Many law faculties now try to publish the works of their researchers online all around the world. This may occur via various online repositories (e.g., some law schools have already joined ssrn.com) or via specific faculty-related homepages, and most of the law journals are now accessible through either open access homepages or portals behind paywall.
Yet this transformation has had only a minor impact on Hungarian legal publications. The community of Hungarian legal scholars regards the print journals and manuals as the decisive forum of scholarly publication. Some of these printed materials may be published online, but it always depends on the publication policies of the publishing houses (see, for example, the jogkodex.hu homepage provided by the publishing house HVG Orac, offering digitalized versions of some Hungarian law journals); these initiatives are in an initial phase in terms of both their academic prestige and practical realization. Traditional ways of publication will, however, definitely be soon challenged since it can empirically be proved that scholars prefer publications that are accessible online in some form (in a full version or in an abstract) to those that only have a print version. To put it differently: if a reader cannot display something on the screen (and search through it, etc.) then it is less likely that she or he will read it and cite it.
2. The need for an online legal encyclopaedia
The Institute for Legal Studies of the Centre for Social Sciences of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (hereafter: the Institute) intends to start an open access online legal encyclopaedia in order to meet the challenges of the abovementioned transformation in the practice of scholarly publication.
We are convinced that this online legal encyclopaedia may contribute to the research purposes of the Institute in various ways:
- it will considerably increase the social impact of the Institute since it will publish peer-reviewed high-level academic information in the form of open access encyclopaedia entries;
- this open access information will not be accessible exclusively to scholars but also to the general public, and it may facilitate the spread of legal information within larger society, thereby increasing the general level of legal knowledge;
- as the encyclopaedia can be prepared only if we also include scholars who are not working at the Institute, it will lead to intensive academic cooperation and professional debates that will have a positive impact in itself on the entire community of legal scholars;
- the successful realization of the project will have a positive impact on the academic prestige of the Institute, which will contribute to maintaining its position as a leader in Hungarian legal scholarship.
3. The encyclopaedia: a plan for realization
3.1. The Editors
Four different types of editors will be needed:
1. The Editors-in-Chief
Task: As project leaders, these individuals will make all necessary strategic decisions and invite all other editors. In order to help the realization of the project, they will also prepare the “authors’ guide” for the encyclopaedia entries.
2. Advisory Board
Task: advising the editors-in-chief in major strategic choices and supervising the realisation of the project.
3. The Editorial Board
The members of the editorial board will be renowned experts in a given field of law and will manage the realization of the encyclopaedia in their respective areas of specialty.
Task: The members of the editorial board will manage the realization of the encyclopaedia in a given field of law. Namely, they will select the necessary encyclopaedia entries, suggest scholars as authors for each entry, manage the work of the authors, and ensure the academic quality of the entries by organizing the peer review process.
4. The Editor
Task: Editor will provide extensive and professional copyediting for the submitted entries.
3.2. The structure of the encyclopaedia
3.2.1. The encyclopaedia entries
The encyclopaedia will be comprised of entries. Topics for these entries are to be determined by the members of the editorial board, bearing in mind only one point: The topics should be selected in such a way that their level of abstraction cannot be qualitatively different, i.e., the entries related to a given field of law should not solely discuss very general and broad questions, whereas others go into the very details in another field.
The exact number of the entries cannot properly be determined at this time. On the one hand, the relevant academic information related to each field of law may vary according to both the history and the nature thereof. On the other hand, entries may also be limited by practical considerations (e.g., lack of proper academic capacity or lack of expert scholars in a particular topic) that may also have an impact on the final number of the related entries. We hope that at least 20-30 entries will be prepared in each field of law; however, this does not preclude the possibility that considerably more entries may be prepared in some fields.
We do not wish to impose strict limits as to the length of the entries, only general guidelines. Indeed, only the extremities must be avoided, that is, very short entries being one or two pages long and uncommonly long ones are not welcomed and they should possibly not exceed 20,000 words.
In a substantive sense, the most important factor is the high academic quality of the entries. They are to be prepared using the most important scholarly sources and relevant academic literature. Indeed, each entry has twofold task: firstly, it has to map the relevant academic literature by shedding light on both the major debates and the relevant arguments; secondly, it has to specify the author’s own position. The requirement of balance is essential; the authors’ individual positions cannot mask the other relevant positions in the literature, and conversely, authors cannot hide their position behind the analysis of the literature. They must take sides on the major points.
Each entry, with an independent url link, will be composed of four elements:
1. Author and title
We strongly recommend that future references to the entries should be made by citing the author’s name, the title of the entry, and the url link not by generally referring to the encyclopaedia. To facilitate this, citation examples will be attached to each entry – similarly to the solution used in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy.
Two or three sentences defining the subject of the entry.
The major parts of the text will be consecutively numbered to make it easier to refer to specific points. Due to the html publication, entries themselves will not have page numbers.
4. Detailed bibliography
The author date references in the entries’ text refer to these sources.
We will have an ISSN number for the encyclopaedia; therefore authors can consider their entries as official scholarly publications.
Unlike some online encyclopaedias, users will not be able to edit or comment on the entries, since their academic quality will be ensured by the peer review process. Furthermore, the continuous moderation of the future comments would require hiring a full-time webmaster, which is not within the scope of our requested budget.
3.2.2. Main fields of law covered/address and potential members of the editorial board
At this point, we envision that the encyclopaedia will include the following fields of law, which will be managed by the following members of the editorial board (all members to be confirmed):
1. Constitutional law (András Jakab / Eszter Bodnár)
2. Criminal law (Zsolt Szomora)
3. Criminal procedure and administration of punishment (Péter Hack)
4. Canon law (Szabolcs Szuromi)
5. EU law (Márton Varju)
6. Legal philosophy (Miklós Szabó)
7. Comparative law (Balázs Fekete)
8. Legal history (László Komáromi)
9. Environmental law (Gábor Kecskés)
10. Administrative law (István Balázs)
11. Criminology (Klára Kerezsi)
12. Private law: general principles (András Földi)
13. Private law: law of the persons (Márta Görög)
14. Private law: family law (Andrea Hegedűs)
15. Private law: property (Attila Menyhárd)
16. Private law: general issues of contract law ( Ádám Fuglinszky, Balázs Tőkey)
17. Private law: contracts (Attila Menyhárd)
18. Private law: heritage law (András Földi)
19. Intellectual and industrial property (Gábor Faludi)
20. Labour law (György Kiss, Attila Kun)
21. Conflict of laws (Sarolta Szabó)
22. Law of the international transactions (Sarolta Szabó)
23. Company law (András Kisfaludi)
24. Law and arts (Péter Takács)
25. Public international law (Gábor Sulyok)
26. Financial law (Borbála Kolozs)
27. Civil procedure (Viktória Harsági)
28. Roman law (Béla Szabó)
29. Law and economics (Ákos Szalai)
30. Sociology of law (Mátyás Bencze)
31. Competition law (Csongor István Nagy)
The above list is not entirely comprehensive, but we think that it appropriately represents the most important fields within the Hungarian legal scholarship. Moreover, it can be expanded in the future.
3.3. How to ensure the academic quality and the uniformity of the encyclopaedia? The mechanisms of peer review.
A project of this size will undoubtedly face many serious difficulties. Amongst these, the uniformity of format and quality of the encyclopaedia and its high academic quality are the major concerns. We plan to address these problems through the following mechanisms:
3.3.1. The uniformity of format and quality of the encyclopaedia
(1.) As the first step of drafting, we will ask each member of the editorial board to prepare a list of encyclopaedia entries related to her or his field of law and to suggest authors for them.
(2.) In the next phase, each member of the editorial board review and compare the lists of encyclopaedia entries in order to find and address any possible overlapping entries.
(3.) As a next step, the editors-in-chief will finalize the entry lists for each field of law with the members of the editorial board.
(4.) After finalizing the list, authors will begin to work on the individual entries.
3.3.2. The peer review mechanism ensuring the high academic quality of the encyclopaedia
All manuscripts will go through the following control phases before being published in the encyclopaedia:
(1.) Review by the competent member of the editorial board.
(2.) Evaluation by an external and independent reviewer selected by the editors-in-chief and the competent member of the editorial board together.
(3.) Professional copyediting in order to ensure the linguistic quality of the encyclopaedia.
We are convinced that these mechanisms are sufficient to guarantee the coherence and high academic quality of the encyclopaedia.
4. Project time schedule
The project will start in January 2014 and it will conclude at the end of 2018 (five years). A vast majority of the encyclopaedia entries will be completed during these five years. We are convinced that the project cannot be successfully realized in a shorter time period because of the lengthy peer review process guaranteeing the encyclopaedia’s high academic quality, as well as the prospective authors’ other commitments. We estimate the timeline as follows:
January 2014 – June 2014: Invitation to the editorial board.
July 2014 – December 2015: Preparation of the list of encyclopaedia entries by the members of the editorial board; controlling for overlapping entries and their clarification; preparation of the final list of the encyclopaedia entries; invitation of authors; selection of the copyeditor; and development of the encyclopaedia’s webpage.
January 2016 – December 2018: Preparation of the encyclopaedia entries, including the peer review and uploading of the entries to the webpage. We will launch the webpage when 20 percent of the entries have been written. All the entries under preparation and their authors will be indicated on the webpage to provide a full picture of the project.
 E.g. the Oxford Legal Research Papers series has originally been published on SSRN, and the SSRN link is even indicated on the front page. See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2115538.
 E.g. French law reviews are accessible via broader social sciences portals see persee.fr or revues.org.
 E.g. see HeinOnline containing the digitalized material of hundreds of English language law reviews (heinonline.org).
 See jogkodex.hu. There are two law journals that are exclusively published online in Hungary: Jogelméleti Szemle (http://jesz.ajk.elte.hu/), Miskolc Journal of International Law (www.mjil.hu), working papers are published in the Pázmány Law Working Papers series (http://plwp.jak.ppke.hu/hu/).
 Cf. Dorothy Bishop: „How to bury your academic writing”.
 The reference point for the encyclopedia can be two successful projects: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy http://plato.stanford.edu/; Enzyklopädie zur Rechtsphilosphie http://www.enzyklopaedie-rechtsphilosophie.net/.