Like most things at LIL, our visiting researcher program has taken many forms over the years. This year, despite our team being spread across the East and Midwest Coasts (shout out to Lake Michigan) we were thrilled to welcome five research associates to the virtual LILsphere, to explore their interests through the lens of our projects and mission.
In addition to joining us for our daily morning standups, RAs attended project meetings and brainstorming sessions, and had access to all of the resources the Harvard Library system has to offer. Their individual research was based on questions they had or ideas they wanted to explore in the realm of each of our three tentpole projects: the Caselaw Access Project, H2O, and Perma.cc.
Each of our visitors tackled an exceptionally interesting corner of our work; some helped propel us forward in terms of platform functionality, others prompted us to reconsider some of our base assumptions around our users. They produced things from new software features to teaching materials, design briefs, and research documentation. Below are brief descriptions of their work and links to their individual outputs.
Using technology to empower research and information access is a central tenet of the LIL mission. Another value we have as a group is that of collaboration. This summer, Rachel explored what it would mean to be able to fuse external datasets into CAP via metadata in a way that would bring context and texture to caselaw.
Her design brief which will guide future LILers to integrate these ideas into the CAP interface can be viewed here.
We got double the fun from Ashley this summer! Initially, she was interested in working on collections of caselaw that would empower journalists on various beats to apply a legal lens to their writing. Using a new feature available from CAP Labs, Ashley put together a series of Chronolawgic timelines for three different beats: education, health, and environment.
You can read her post about all of these timelines and find links to them here.
Then, in true LIL fashion, Ashley found herself swept up in an interesting problem that happened to come up during her time with the team. The power of the CAP dataset is that it makes accessing caselaw exponentially easier, but caselaw, by nature, can contain sensitive content about individuals involved in specific cases. This tension often manifests itself in requests by those individuals to remove their information from our database of cases, and Ashley jumped in alongside our team to research and formalize a process for decision-making and action.
Follow this link to learn more about this question, and Ashley’s research.
The scope of possibilities surrounding the Caselaw Access Project is so vast, we’re really just starting to see how it can change the way scholars look at and study the law. This summer, Andy worked to create further flexibility in our built-in visualization features and expand users’ ability to explore trends, particularly in relation to an extremely important aspect of the law: inter-case citation.
In a series of blog posts, Andy sets out how he extended the Trends tool using the Cases endpoint of the API; a powerful application of a new feature; and the design work that was done to integrate these upgrades into the general search interface of CAP.
Undergraduate curricula were the focus of Adaeze’s summer. Where and how is the law taught to students who aren’t explicitly attending law school? Via a thorough survey of undergraduate curricula and conversations with students, Adaeze presented our team with a summary of legal teaching in an undergraduate setting, and took a deeper dive into legal teaching in the social and natural science fields. Her research explored the potential impact of legal texts and open educational resources in completely new settings.
Since 2018, our team has been integrating primary legal documents, including caselaw and the U.S. Code, directly into H2O, our open casebook platform, to make the creation of legal teaching materials even more seamless and powerful. This summer, Aadi continued that work by exploring ways in which H2O could include state code in a casebook—extending content capabilities for all of our users. Along the way, Aadi learned a lot about open-source communities and the process of integrating public materials into our platform.
If you’re interested in our visiting research opportunities, make sure to follow us on Twitter. You should also feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!