Update on SSRN Download Counts

A few days ago, I called on SSRN to clean up their download counting procedures. In response, I had an email exchange with Gregg Gordon of SSRN, who emailed me the following (reposted with his permission):

“Thank you for the email and including our lists on your blog. SSRN takes the validity of our download counts very seriously and has developed capabilities similar to those you mention. We have spent significant sums of money on sophisticated systems to identify both repetitive downloading by individuals and potentially fraudulent download patterns over time. I am not at liberty to say exactly what we do because it would limit the effectiveness of our efforts. However I can tell you that we actively investigate suspicious download patterns. We also continue to improve our systems and our ability to identify suspicious downloads.”

Today, SSRN sent another mass-email announcing their new top author and top school rankings tools. Following on the theme of Gregg’s email, the mass-email contains some saber-rattling, saying (among other things):

“SSRN does not look kindly on attempts to game the system. We have sophisticated software in place to detect it and we have removed illegitimate downloads in the past where warranted and will do so in the future. Those found abusing the system may be asked to leave.”

Gregg has promised me more details about their efforts—at minimum, a forthcoming FAQ will discuss this. I’m interested to see the specifics. If they can produce reliable download counts, I think the SSRN rankings have the potential to become a major metric for academic performance.

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