The Data-Driven Future of International Economic Law

Wolfgang Alschner, Joost Pauwelyn and Sergio Puig

Journal of International Economic Law, Vol. 20, No. 2, 2017, pp. 1-15.


The availability of more data and new ways of analyzing it is changing the way we do empirical legal research. With the help of modern technology we can study adjudicators, awards and agreements in greater numbers, less time and more detail opening the doors for new research questions, theory building and legal technology applications for scholars and practitioners. This introduction to the Journal of International Economic Law Special Issue on new frontiers in empirical legal research provides a first take on this data-driven future. It distinguishes data-driven research from more traditional methods by pointing to (1) its “data first” attitude, (2) its ambition to look at all the available data rather than subsamples thereof and (3) its focus on computing rather than reading or counting. Data-driven research comes with new promises, but also challenges and limitations. While it allows researchers to uncover latent structures, debunk past myths and even forecast the future, it also requires new skills and competencies including an ability to tell patterns from noise in inductive data analysis. We argue that the time is ripe to overcome these challenges and to seize the opportunities of the new data-driven frontier in empirical legal scholarship.

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About the Author:

Wolfgang Alschner is an empirical legal scholar specialized in international economic law and the computational analysis of law.  Prior to joining the University of Ottawa, Wolfgang worked for several years as an individual contractor for UNCTAD’s Section on International Investment Agreements and as a research fellow at the Graduate Institute in Geneva and the World Trade Institute in Bern, Switzerland. Wolfgang co-founded the investment treaty analytics portal and has published in leading peer-reviewed journals. His research focuses on using social and computer science methods in order to empirically investigate international law. His areas of interest include international investment law and arbitration, WTO law, regional trade agreements, international dispute settlement, law & economics and empirical analysis of law.

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