Iuridicum Database - Evaluations by Users of the Web Version of Juridica. On Publishing Legal Literature in Estonia (1992-2004)

Author:Peep Pruks
Position:Dr. iur., University of Tartu. Head of the Iuridicum Foundation

1. Users - 1.1. Education - 1.2. Nature of activity - 1.3. Field of activity - 1.4. Occupation - 2. Assessment of the Juridica - 2.1. Why do I read Juridica? - 2.2. I would like to read more.... - 2.3. Choose three main areas of law that you would like to read about in Juridica! - 3. Assessment of Juridica electronic edition - 3.1. Search facility - 3.2. Keyword index - 3.3. Ease of use - 3.4.... (see full summary)


Peep Pruks

Dr. iur., University of Tartu. Head of the Iuridicum Foundation

Iuridicum Database - Evaluations by Users of the Web Version of Juridica. On Publishing Legal Literature in Estonia (1992-2004)

On Publishing Legal Literature in Estonia

A couple of years ago, we published an overview1 of the Iuridicum database2 to provide information about the database and its components: the Juridica, English summaries of the articles - Juridica Abstract, and the Juridica International, CVs of authors and the publications issued by the Iuridicum Foundation.*3

The Juridicajournal of the Faculty of Law of the University of Tartu4 was started as a result of international scientific cooperation with the Faculty of Law and Financial Studies of Glasgow University in 1993. For Estonian jurists, the past decade has meant a reunion with the European legal area. The preparation of laws has extended from the translation of foreign provisions and their adaptation for Estonia to the creation, enactment and implementation of original solutions springing only from the specific situation in Estonia. Ideally, the adoption of a new Act should be followed by detailed comments in a publication. Such an undertaking, however, is limited by time and the large workload of the potential comment writers. Juridica has tried to fill this gap by addressing current problems in legal drafting, and it has provided the first theoretical and practical comments on issues arising in the implementation of many adopted Acts.

Issues discussed in Juridica are either entirely dedicated to a specific topic or cover different areas of law. Besides original articles, columns include information on events for Estonian lawyers, information on the activities of training centres and options for complementary training, information on professional associations, societies and institutions, and introduction of the most recent scientific and professional literature. Through the years, Juridica has published articles introducing various aspects of the Tartu Law Faculty - scientific conferences, seminars, complementary training, competitions organised by funds, defending of Masters' and Doctors' theses, etc.

From the point of the temporal dimension of Estonian law culture, it must be admitted that Juridica has passed through only a brief section of time. At the same time, twelve years of the journal have brought us quite far: we have been able to build up a modern journal of legal science and reached a stable audience. At the first readers' conference of Juridica5, professor emeritus John P. Grant6 recollected in his Opening Address for Academic Legal Education in Estonia:

I remember vividly the heady, exciting post-communist days in Estonia. In all, I made 12 visits to Estonia between 1991 and 1994. ...The link was initially established with financial support from the British Council. That support was intended to foster academic links, involving such things as curriculum reform and teaching skills. Dean EerikKergandberg, and later Dean Peep Pruks, and I set up a programme of exchanges of staff and teaching materials; the curriculum was reformed. Incidentally, I might say that I was summoned in 1992 to the British Council's headquarters in Manchester to be congratulated as the most successful academic link of the 24 the British Council then sponsored. I was immensely flattered until I was told that a not inconsiderable number of the links had achieved nothing at all. Some British universities had not even been able to make contact with their Eastern European partner.

The genesis of the Juridica represented a further development, in many senses the culmination, of the link between the law faculties. It is important for any legal profession to have a journal outlining legal developments and commenting on aspects of the law. Normally, the legal profession undertakes this task for itself, but that was not possible in 1992. To the great credit of the Tartu law faculty, it took the lead in establishing a law journal which, over the years, has done such outstanding service to all those in practice and in the academy. With the financial support of the Law Society of Scotland and the expertise of a renowned Scottish law publisher, David Fletcher, we published, ten years ago, a journal modelled roughly on the Law Society's own journal.

Juridica International, the English-language special edition of Juridica has been published once a year from 1996. Throughout the years, articles of Juridica International have provided an introduction of the Estonian legal system and its changes to the countries of the European Union, to which Estonia has acceded by now. More important topics have included the Constitution and European integration, fundamental personal rights and freedoms, the Civil Code and the Penal Code, and other key issues of the legal reform. Juridica International has established grounds for contacts with internationally acclaimed journals.*7

Since 2001 special issues of Juridica in Estonian - Fundamental Rights in the Estonian Constitution (Põhiõigused Eesti põhiseaduses) by R. Alexy; 2002 Social Welfare as a Fundamental Right: Duties of the State, Local Governments, Family and Other Persons in Guaranteeing Constitutional Rights in the Sphere of Social Welfare (Sotsiaalhoolekanne kui põhiõigus: Riigi, kohalike omavalitsuste, perekonna ja muude isikute kohustused põhiseaduslike õiguste tagamisel sotsiaalhoolekande valdkonnas) by T. Annus and B. Aaviksoo, and 2003 Erakonnaõigus, are available.

In summary, the journal and its special editions have played an important role in the development of legal education and science in Estonia, offering the authors a good opprotunity for discussion. Today's competitive legal education is based on science and can be established only on scientific research by lecturers. And Juridica has contributed much to that end. The journal has also been an important source of legal analyses and comments for Estonian jurists.

As from January 2002, the readers have had the opportunity to access the Iuridicum database8, which by today includes more than 2900 legal analyses, comments on adopted legislation and other pieces of legal information.

The database has been used more and more intensively9. As of May 2002, there were 320 users of the network edition, a year later their number was 605 and by May 2004, there were 786 registered users (a growth of 2.45 times). Together with the paper edition, the number of registered users is presently around 1700. In fact, there are even more readers since presumably, editions subscribed to state institutions, libraries or law bureaus are read mostly by several persons.

A comparison of usage statistics over the last three years demonstrates that while the average number of accesses to the database was 3226 times daily in May 2002 and 6358 times daily in May 2003, the number had grown 2.35 times by May 2004, reaching 7567 daily accesses. The average number of database visitors was 106 persons daily in 2002; 192 persons daily in 2003 and 334 persons daily in May 2004 (a growth of 3.15 times).

Accesses to the database were made, on average per month, from 1300 computers in 2002, from 2300 computers in 2003 and 4100 computers in 2004 (a growth of 3.15 times). The volume of downloaded data per month has also grown more than three times during the previous period.

In summary, more than 2.14 million accesses to the database were made during the previous year.

Users of the Internet version certainly include our colleagues from foreign countries who can acquaint themselves with Estonian legal issues through the digital Juridica International and Juridica Abstract. There are also links to the database from the webpages of the following universities:

Helsinki (http://www.helsinki.fi/oik/kirjasto/oikeuslahteet.shtml

Uppsala ("http://www.ub.uu.se/), click Tidskrifter (Journals);

Oslo (http://wgate.bibsys.no/search/pub?lang=NAt).

The editors of the journal have regularly analysed the readers' opinions and feedback concerning the published articles10. The information so collected is an appropriate source...

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