The New York Times reports on the Social Science Research Network, an increasingly influential web site that now offers nearly 150,000 full-text documents for downloading and gives academics the chance to see how popular their writings are online. The network is a business set up in 1994 by five people who saw a niche in online academic research. They pooled their money and began building relationships and the infrastructure to post so much material online. All but one comes from the world of economic and legal scholarship, and it is in those areas that the network is strongest, adding an estimated 45,000 articles or so a year. So far, more than 550,000 users have registered to download documents. And with a precision common to the digital age, its rankings of downloads can be sliced and diced in many ways with only a click: most downloads over all or most downloads in the last 12 months, either by article, by author, or by institution. The network was not created to be a Top 40 list for academics, said Michael C. Jensen, its chairman and one of its founders, but it has turned out that way…

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