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The Australian Legal Scholarship Library

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The Australian Legal Scholarship Library

An AustLII research and infrastructure project

Last updated 9 September 2008

The Australian Research Council has provided an infrastructure (LIEF) grant of $169,776 for 2008 to enable AustLII to build an Australian Legal Scholarship Library. The grant is to investigators from seven Universities, who have between them (including contributions from their law schools) contributed a further $335,000 (plus $130,000 in-kind) to the project. The Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) supports the project, and other partner organisations are contributing to its completion.

The main aim of the project is to expand the existing Australasian Law Journals Library in terms of the number of journals included and the historical depth of coverage, to make it as comprehensive as possible of Australian academic legal scholarship, and other non-profit law journals. The project will also aim to add law school academic repositories (such as UNSWLRS and University of Melbourne LRS) for those law schools wishing to participate; to include Australian postgraduate theses on law; to develop repositories of Australian judicial scholarship; to publish Australian legal texts where available for free access; to develop an automated citator for Australian law journal articles, tracking where they have been cited; and to explore development of an open content publishing platform for any law journals wishing to use it.

Project Summary

Approved Title: The Australian Legal Scholarship Library - enhancing research infrastructure for Australian law Summary: It is difficult to find Australian legal scholarship of the last 50 years because too little of it is available online or searchable from any central location. The Australian Legal Scholarship Library, located on AustLII, will remedy that by creating a comprehensive repository for Australian academic and non-profit law journals; law school repositories for all of their new scholarship no matter where it is eventually published, and smart methods of finding how legal documents relate to each other. People researching Australian law, whether for business, academic or community purposes, will benefit from better access to this wealth of expertise.

Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage – Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities (LIEF) fund; Grant LE0882782, 2008; Primary RFCD 2801 Information Systems; ARC funding : $169,776; Funding from Partner Organisations $335,000 cash, $130,000 in-kind.

Chief Investigators, Parties and Contributions


Collaborating Institution

Prof Graham Greenleaf
The University of New South Wales
Prof Andrew Mowbray
University of Technology, Sydney
Prof Andrew Buck
Macquarie University
Dr Fiona Wheeler
The Australian National University
A/Prof Andrew Kenyon
The University of Melbourne
Prof Michael Adams
University of Western Sydney
Mrs Helen Culshaw
The Flinders University of South Australia

Prof Stephen Bottomley (ANU) and A/Prof Steven Freeland (UWS) have attended planning meetings to represent their Universities when the respective CIs were not available.

The Council of Australian Law Deans (CALD) supports the project.

Four other Universities which are among the largest University funding contributors to AustLII have also accepted invitations to be involved in the project:

Ms Kay Tucker,
Monash University
Prof. Jürgen Bröhmer
University of New England
Ms Barbara Thorsen
University of Queensland
Mr Peter Lead
University of. Sydney

Development of the Library is also receiving input and assistance from the following:

Progress, publications and outcomes

Details of the project’s proposals (2007)

(Edited from the ARC funding application, April 2007)

AustLII and legal scholarship – developments to date

Over the past couple of years, AustLII has expanded its content to place it in the forefront as a repository of Australian academic legal research. This expansion of content has been supported by previous ARC LIEF funding obtained by AustLII to 2006, although legal scholarship was only a very small element of a much broader project including major international elements. AustLII’s Law Journals Library at <> includes recent issues of 50 Australasian Law Journals, mostly from academic sources. It includes 41 Australian academic law journals[1], 4 from New Zealand and a handful from non-academic sources. Though far from complete, it is already the largest searchable full text collection of Australian law journals.

AustLII also contains some of the most important locations (other than in law journals themselves) where Australian academic legal scholarship is cited, namely case law and law reform reports. AustLII has by far the broadest range of court decisions of any publisher, with databases of decisions from over 120 Australian Courts and Tribunals. For recent years it is near-comprehensive. As of 2006, AustLII has near-complete sets of law reform reports from all Australian jurisdictions, in its Law Reform Library <>.

Therefore, through the expansion of its collections, both of Australian legal scholarship, and of the most important sources of citation of Australian legal scholarship, AustLII has put itself in a uniquely favourable position to develop an Australian legal scholarship library or repository. It will be able to add value to this scholarship by linking to it from other documents citing it, and linking it to the other documents it cites. The elements of the project to achieve these goals are now detailed. As a by-product of this project, it will also be possible for AustLII to create a discipline-specific citation system for law.

Elements of the proposed project

The seven key elements of the project, and the means by which they are to be achieved, are as follows. The first four of these elements concern expansion of content in the repository, to four to five times its current size within the life of the project. Two concern improvements to this content by technical means relating to citation recognition. The final element completes the project with a platform for publication of new journals.

(i) Expanding the range of law journals included in the Library

(ii) Expanding the historical coverage of journals held

(iii) Developing ‘Law Research Series’ databases – aggregating subject-specific repositories

The research outputs of academics at Australian law schools are published in many different locations, of which Australian academic law journals are only one. An Australian Legal Scholarship Library has to go beyond law journals and also include scholarship originating from law schools no matter where it is published, insofar as this is possible. The answer to which Universities and academic funding bodies are turning increasingly is that of open access scholarship repositories in which all outputs from a particular institution (or part of an institution) are pre-published or re-published. DEST regards such repositories as ‘a mission-critical infrastructure component supporting scholarship’ (Groenewegen and Dickson, 2006). Many Australian Universities are creating University-wide repositories, such as ARROW@UNSW <> or QUT’s eprints <>. Discipline-based repositories complement these institution-based repositories. The main choices for legal scholarship at present are both US-based and dominated by US content: the Legal Scholarship Network (LSN), part of SSRN, at <> and Berkeley Electronic Press (bepress) Legal Repository at <>. Both existing approaches have their limitations from the perspective of an Australian law academic wanting to maximise access to their research. Institution-based repositories are unlikely to be browsed by legal researchers, and their utility depends on their searchability by Internet-wide search engines. US-based legal repositories are still mainly used by US researchers, and are less likely to be searched regularly by potential Australian audiences. Accessibility by search engines is again the only effective access path.

This project will provide an additional Australian-located, discipline-based approaches, and one which is located on by far the most heavily-accessed website for Australian law. AustLII obtains approximately three times the accesses of the online services of all Australian commercial legal publishers combined (Hitwise ratings service, February 2007). AustLII will develop a Legal Research Series database for each Australian Law School that wishes to do so. The UNSWLRS has already been developed to test the approach. The mechanism is that each Law School has a designated person who lodges with AustLII research outputs from their Law School, in a specified format, from which their schools database is updated. The database is searchable as part of the Law Journals Library (to be re-named Legal Scholarship Library), and on AustLII generally. Creation of repositories such as these furthers the goals of the Australian Research Council’s Discovery Projects Funding Rules for funding commencing in 2008, which states that the ARC encourages researchers to deposit their data and any publications arising from the research project into a subject and/or institutional repository within a six month period (ARC, 2007, ss There is no inherent conflict between institutional and discipline-based repositories, and our experience (and inclinations) suggest that there is value in publishing in both in order to reach different audiences and achieve different goals. For example, all of the articles in the UNSW LRS are also available via LSN, bepress and (soon) ARROW. This is simply a decision for each law school.

This is a low-cost and sustainable means of creating an Australia-wide discipline-based repository for law, as it avoids the need for AustLII to engage directly with hundreds of end-user authors and consequent costs, and requires Law Schools to exercise quality control over their own database. AustLII is the obvious home for an Australian discipline-based repository for law, as it is the dominant provider of all other types of legal information, and consequently already has by far the highest user base (‘passing traffic’). Both law schools and AustLII will need to be aware of the issues raised in Chapter 5 of the OAK Law Report No 1, ‘Creating a legal framework for open access to academic and research material’ (Fitzgeral et al, 2007). We estimate that the employment of one staff member at AustLII is sufficient to support the establishment and management of these repositories Australia-wide, and this is easily maintainable in future years from the contributions law schools are now making to AustLII with CALD encouragement. There are many forms of value-adding that can be made to such repositories, at considerable expense, but it is not yet clear which of them are particularly valuable. The initial version of this discipline-based repository will rely on the forms of value-adding already provided by AustLII, notably (a) the ‘co-location’ of the other essential items of Australian legal research - cases, legislation, treaties and law reform reports – which other repositories cannot match, and the attractive power that these have to users, and (b) the values added by citation recognition and linking discussed in (v)-(vii) below.

A test is available of which repositories will prove most attractive to those interested in Australian legal research. In January 2007 UNSW Law Faculty launched the ‘UNSW Law Faculty Law Research Series’ (UNSWLRS) simultaneously on LSN, bepress and AustLII, and is subsequently putting it on ARROW. Accesses to all 26 papers in the series for January – April 2007 are: SSRN – 380 downloads; bepress – 612 downloads; AustLII – 2698 downloads. We don’t yet have comparative figures for publication on ARROW@UNSW. The AustLII figures do not include any accesses for January and February, as publications of the series there did not start until March. There is some inflation of the AustLII figures due to search engine spidering, and because it does not publish separate abstracts. They nevertheless suggest that publication by an Australian law school of a repository on AustLII will attract heavy usage, possibly more than the same content in a US-dominated repository. This is not surprising: users of AustLII are researching Australian law.

(iv) Including law-related Australian Digital Theses in the Legal Scholarship Library

The Australian Digital Theses (ADT) Program <> is a very important initiative providing federated access to a most important form of scholarship, postgraduate dissertations from 41 Australasian Universities. As a means of making legal research accessible, it suffers three main drawbacks. First, trying to find law theses is not easy because of the quantity of irrelevant items using similar terminology. Second, most lawyers or legal researchers would never think to look there. Third, its contents are hidden from Internet-wide search engines. The aim of this element of the project is to make these law theses effectively searchable via AustLII, since that is where lawyers will commence research. One way this can be achieved is by making the abstracts of law-related digital theses searchable as if they were a database on AustLII, but such that when a thesis appears in AustLII search results the user is taken to the original location on ADT. This will involve periodic extraction of abstract data by a customised search or series of searches, and creation of a concordance from the results, by a process which can be largely automated and therefore made sustainable. An alternative is to republish abstracts on AustLII. The first approach involves fewer considerations. Chapter 6 ‘Electronic theses and dissertations’ of the OAK Law Report No 1 will provide useful guidance on some issues that may arise.

(v) Linking from citations to law journal articles and building new services from citations

The benefits of aggregating a comprehensive collection of law journal articles can only be achieved fully by careful attention to recognising how they are cited. This enables creation of automated links to an article from any other article, court decision or law reform report that cites it. Further value adding can then be developed from this (see (vii) below). Development of tools for automated recognition and extraction of citations of Australian law journal articles, irrespective of the variety of ways in which they may be cited is complex but achievable. Legal citation patterns have only very limited similarity to those of other types of journal articles. AustLII has developed heuristic-based mark-up tools over many years for the automated recognition and extraction of legislative citations, and (more recently) case citations. These tools will be developed further into methods of academic citation extraction and linking. We have done some preliminary research on this question. The problem is more difficult than in many scientific disciplines because law articles do not contain lists of articles cited in any recognizable location, so citations must be recognised and extracted from the text of the article. Law journal articles have traditionally only been published in one location, and so do not generally share the ‘parallel citation’ problem that bedevils judgment citation recognition, but the existence of pre-print and post-print repositories is now bringing this problem with it. Law journal citations are however varied and abbreviated in many ways, and a citation recognition tool must have very robust heuristics to deal with these variations. It is a non-trivial problem not yet solved, but one that can be solved and put into a production system with a moderate amount of software development, based on development work already done at AustLII. This element requires the full-time work of a software developer directed and assisted by AustLII’s Co-Directors. These tools will then be utilized so that, for any law journal article on AustLII (and perhaps for some other known articles not on AustLII), it is possible to obtain a comprehensive list of all other articles, law reform reports and cases on AustLII that cite that article. Methods of achieving this will include a ‘Noteup’ button on each article that conducts a search for all other content referring to that article.

(vi) Extension of journal citation tracking facilities to other bodies of data

(vii) Providing an AustLII electronic publishing platform for Australian law journals

In order to complete a comprehensive system for Australian legal scholarly publishing, AustLII should offer law schools and non-profit law organisations a platform for publishing free-access law journals that is well-integrated with the Legal Scholarship Library and AustLII’s general approach to publishing journals (eg automated insertion of hypertext links provision of ‘noteups’). This should assist new forms of academic collaboration to produce law journals. We do not intend to ‘re-invent the wheel’, but instead to offer customized versions of at least one international standard open content platforms. An obvious possibility is the ARROW Open Access Journal Publishing System which uses the Open Journal Systems (OJS) from Public Knowledge Project (University of British Columbia) <> for open access journal publishing (Groenewegen and Dickson, 2006). Alternative models are assessed in Clarke (2005-06). Project staff will assist any law school or non-profit law organization that wishes to use one of these platforms to publish their content on AustLII in how to do so. AustLII will obtain, maintain and configure the software for additional AustLII features. This should be low cost and sustainable at the AustLII end: that is one point of encouraging use of these solutions. Based on our experience, we will also advise potential users on which approach may best suit their needs. This aspect of the project will involve part of the time of the project’s manager, the software developer, an expert consultant (Clarke), and the experience of members of the Advisory Committee.


ARC (2007) - Discovery Projects Funding Rules for funding commencing in 2008 at <>

CC Press Release 2005 - ‘Creative Commons and Science Commons Announce Open Access Law Program’, June 6 2005, at <>

Clarke, Roger (2005-06) – Information Infrastructure – University Sector collected papers (including Open Content Licensing for Research Paper (Pr)ePrints (2004); A Proposal for an Open Content Licence for Research Paper (Pr)ePrints (2005); The Cost-Profiles of Alternative Approaches to Journal-Publishing (2005); Revenue Models for Journal-Publishing in the Open Access Era (2005); A Standard Copyright Licence for PostPrints (2005); and An Open and Closed Case: PrePrints and PostPrints in Digital Repositories (2006)), available at <>

Fitzgerald (2006) - Fitzgerald, Brian et al OAK Law Project Report No 1 - Creating a legal framework for copyright management of open access within the Australian academic and research sector at

Groenewegen and Dickson (2006) - Groenewegen, David and Dickson, Neil ‘The ARROW Project after 2 years’, 2006, conference paper at <>

Hunter, Dan (2005) ‘Walled Gardens’ Washington & Lee Law Review, Vol. 62, 2005 at <>

OAK Law Project (2007) - A Guide to Developing Open Access Through Your Digital Repository (2007) at <>

[1] Aboriginal Law Bulletin 1981-1997; ALRC Reform Journal 1995-; Alternative Law Journal 2000-; Australian Indigenous Law Reporter 1996-; Australian Journal of Human Rights 1994-; Australian Journal of Legal History 2003-; ANZ Maritime Law Journal 1983-; Bond Law Review 1998-; Bond Dispute Resolution Newsletter 1999-; Corporate Governance eJournal (Bond) 2005-; Deakin Law Review 2001-; Digital Technology Law Journal 1999-; The Economic and Labour Relations Review 2006-; eJournal of Tax Research 2003-; Elder Law Review 2002-; Federal Law Review 2001-; High Court Review 1995-2000; Human Rights Defender 1994-; Indigenous Law Bulletin 1997-; James Cook University Law Review 2002-; Journal of Australian Taxation 2005-; Journal of the Australasian Tax Teachers Association 2005-; Journal of Law and Financial Management 2002-; Macquarie Business Law Journal 2004-; Macquarie Journal of International and Comparative Environmental Law 2004-; Macquarie Law Journal 2001-; Macquarie Legal Symposium 2006 -; Melbourne Journal of International Law 2000-; Melbourne University Law Review 1999-; Murdoch University Electronic Journal of Law 1993-; Privacy Law and Policy Reporter 1994-; QUT Law and Justice Journal 2001-; Revenue Law Journal 1990-; Sports Law eJournal 2005-; Sydney Law Review 2003-; UNE Law Journal 2004-; UNSW Law Journal 1997-; UTS Law Review 1999-; UWS Law Review 2001-

[2] Australasian Journal of Natural Resources Law and Policy (U.Woll.), Australian Journal of Asian Law (U.Melb), Australian Year Book of International Law (ANU), Canberra Law Review (U. Canberra), Griffith Law Review (Griffith U.), Journal of Japanese Law (U. Syd, ANU and UNSW), Journal of Law, Information and Science (U. Tasmania), Law Text Culture (U. Woll.), Southern Cross University Law Review (SCU), University of Western Australia Law Review (UWA), International Trade and Business Law Review, Macarthur Law Review, Newcastle Law Review, University of Notre Dame Australia Law Review, University of Queensland Law Journal, University of Tasmania Law Review

[3] Examples include Australian Institute of Administrative Law Forum, Australian Journal of Forensic Sciences, Australian Resources and Energy Law Journal, Australian Mining and Petroleum Law Journal, Australian Social Work, Judicial Review (Judicial Commission of NSW), Plaintiff: Journal of the Australian Plaintiff Lawyers Association

[4] Examples include the ALRC’s Reform Journal, Admin Review (Administrative Review Council), Australian Journal of Legal Philosophy, Maritime Law Association of Australia and New Zealand Journal

[5] With a small number of ‘reporters’ on AustLII that come out in smaller monthly issues, an approximation has been made of 100 pages to a notional ‘issue’, to preserve comparability with other law journals.


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