An Open Access Marvel: The Social Science Research Network

[tweetmeme source=”Intellogist” only_single=false]  It’s no secret that I love open access resources.  Open access (OA) repositories are a particularly valuable resource, since they allow researchers to share working versions of their papers and also give students and fellow researchers free access to current knowledge in their fields.  I recently found a particularly useful OA repository through the Written Description blog by Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, who has published a series of interesting posts about the “Top 10  IP Paper Downloads” from the Social Science Research Network (SSRN).

What useful resources are available through SSRN, and (more importantly) how can IP professionals use SSRN to locate relevant prior art?  Read on to find out!

Searching for eJournals and Papers

The SSRN is an OA repository for academic research papers created by Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc.  The homepage describes how the “SSRN eLibrary consists of two parts: an Abstract Database containing abstracts on over 346,400 scholarly working papers and forthcoming papers and an Electronic Paper Collection currently containing over 281,600 downloadable full text documents in Adobe Acrobat pdf format.”   Users can search, browse, and download papers from the eLibrary for free, but users must be registered in order to subscribe to eJournals, save and organize papers through the “My Briefcase” interface, submit their own research papers to the repository,  or join specific research networks.  Creating an account on SSRN is free, but users must pay a fee to join specific research networks or subscribe to certain fee-based eJournals.

Users can browse the list of eJournals by selecting “Browse”  on the main horizontal menu at the top of the page.  This section presents users with an expandable list of networks (organized by field) and the various eJournals or lists of papers associated with that network.  An interesting feature of this list is the “i” icon beside each topic or journal title, which allows users to view the “Top Downloaded” and “Most Recent” papers for that particular topic or journal.  The list is hierarchically expandable, and it can sometimes be difficult to locate an eJournal topic by simply browsing through the hierarchy.  If a user finds a relevant journal through the browsable list, they can view a list of all papers published in the eJournal and sort the list according to date posted, abstract title, or number of downloads.

Browse the hierarchal list of networks and eJournals.

The JEL Topic List is another option for locating papers on a particular topic.  Classifications in the topic list will take users to the list of individual papers that correspond with the topic.  Finally, users can search for papers through the “Search” section accessible on the top menu.  The search form lets users search by term (title or “title, abstract, and keyword”), a drop-down menu of date ranges, and author name.

Download Papers

After selecting a paper from the search results, users can often choose to download the paper in PDF format for free (some papers aren’t available for download, although the abstracts and citation information are freely accessible).  Besides downloading the paper, registered users can also add the paper to their “My Briefcase” list, email the full text paper to themselves, or email a link to the document to a collegue.  Finally, users can choose to export citation information on the paper to bibliographic reference management software, like RefWorks or EndNote.

Download PDF versions of research papers found in the eLibrary.

Top Papers, Authors, and Institutions

Users can choose to view the Top Papers, Top Authors, or Top Institutions on SSRN.  Each section is accessible through the top menu, and the ranking lists allow users to sort the results by criteria like:

  • Total new downloads
  • Total number of downloads
  • Total number of citations
  • Number of authors
  • Total downloads per author
  • New downloads per author
  • Total citations per author

The Author lists also can be sorted by the Author-Level  Eigenfactor Score.  The Author and Institution sections are further divided by field (business, law, and economics).

Find "Top Authors" ranked according to a variety of criteria.

How can Prior Art Searchers Use SSRN?

SSRN can be useful for locating non-patent literature prior art, especially for prior art on business methods.  The papers published on SSRN are often works-in-progress and therefore contain the very latest research from a particular field.  IP professionals can also track the latest and most popular research in the IP field, as illustrated in the Written Description blog, through the “Top downloaded” and “Most recent” papers for IP-related eJournals.

Have you contributed to or searched any other OA repositories?  Let us know about them in the comments!

Patent Searches from Landon IP

This post was contributed by Joelle Mornini. The Intellogist blog is provided for free by Intellogist’s parent company Landon IP, a major provider of patent searches, trademark searches, technical translations, and information retrieval services.

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