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Student Authors Q&A


In this post, our student authors for the Spring Issue of Volume 33, Flora Wang and Alex Harding, generously agreed to answer some questions about their experience. We hope this post is helpful if you are thinking of submitting your writing to JOLT. Our student notes submissions and competition for the Fall issue of Volume 34 is open now until June 21.

1. Tell us a little about yourself and your article.

Flora Wang: I am a third-year student at Harvard Law School, and I am passionate about civil digital liberties, disinformation and data privacy. My background in human rights, international security and international relations initially sparked my interest in privacy and digital civil liberties.

My Note is titled “Cooperative Data Privacy: The Japanese Model of Data Privacy and the EU-Japan GDPR Adequacy Agreement.” An Adequacy Decision means that the European Union has determined that a non-EU entity has an “equivalent” level of data protection to the EU. The Adequacy Decision permits data to flow from the EU to a non-EU entity without additional safeguards. As the first mutual adequacy finding, the Adequacy Decision is also groundbreaking, as data can flow from a non-EU entity back to the EU without additional safeguards.

My Note argues that Japan has chartered a new path of cooperative data privacy. This model allows a non-EU entity to reap the financial benefits of an adequacy decision, while limiting its potential impact on domestic values, cultures, and identities. Japan can serve as a potential precedent for countries seeking an alternative to the U.S., European and Chinese data governance models. In the absence of universal data governance regulation, the rules that govern, control and limit access to data play a crucial part in geopolitical competition.

Alex Harding: I’m a recent grad and member of the Class of 2019. My note is titled “Rehabilitation or Enhancement.” Genetic tools like CRISPR show promise and risk for improving the human condition. They also present very clear risks – especially when discussing enhancement – that we may wish to be proactive about regulating. At the time I wrote the paper, most commercializable gene therapies dealt with curing some underlying disease or genetic condition. These are therapies which I refer to as “rehabilitative.” It is also theoretically possible to create gene therapies that can augment – or “enhance” just about anyone who takes them, regardless of underlying conditions.

The United States has not expressly set out rules which put higher scrutiny on research generally directed to these theoretical “enhancement” based therapies. In the Note, we explore a few possible frameworks for federal regulatory bodies – such as FDA or NIH – to consider with respect to upcoming developments in human augmentation.

2. Why did you decide to write a piece on your topic?

FW: I have been working on this project since October 2018. I decided to research this topic after I stumbled upon a news article about the EU-Japan General Data Protection Regulation Adequacy Decision (“EU-Japan Adequacy Decision”). I was intrigued because the EU-Japan Adequacy Decision is the first adequacy decision after the General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) came into effect. As the Adequacy Decision created the world’s largest area of free data flows, it also has significant implications for trade, international relations and international security. I had previously attended a talk about the theory that the GDPR grants the EU a first-mover advantage in data governance by Dr. Moritz Hennemann, so I was interested in the GDPR’s global impact. I wanted to conduct research in Japan to learn if experts view the Adequacy Decision as supporting or refuting the theory that the EU can utilize the GDPR to establish a global standard for data governance. Moreover, I wanted to learn as much as possible about this unique Japanese data privacy model, as current scholarship is primarily focused on the West. I spent January Term in 2019 in Tokyo, interviewing government officials, privacy scholars, and attorneys.

AH: Much of my (brief) work experience before law school involved questions of human augmentation in the bionic and genetic spaces. I often found the question of regulatory limitations on self-augmentation to be even more interesting than the technology itself.

3. Why and when did you decide to publish your writing?

FW: I have always been interested in publishing, but it seemed to be an unattainable goal when I first entered law school. There were a couple of reasons that factored in my decision to publish. The first was that there is limited research on Japanese data privacy, and this is the first paper focusing on the Adequacy Decision since it came into effect. Therefore, my research would be able to contribute to the ongoing discourse on data governance. Second, I was lucky enough to have received significant encouragement from the Japanese data privacy community. It took me around a month of cold-emailing to become connected to the interviewees, and there were many times where I thought that I would not able to carry out the research. I am grateful to the HLS students, alumni and faculty who went out of their way to connect me to my interviewees. I was encouraged by the fact that my interviewees were excited that I was writing about the Japanese perspective on data privacy and the Adequacy Decision, and that I wanted to share their perspective with others.

AH: I believe I decided around the summer of 2019. I had just submitted the paper for our FDA class and JOLT was running a student writing competition.

4. What was the most difficult part of getting your writing to publishable quality?

FW: One of the hardest parts was seeing how my Note fits into the greater field of data privacy and thinking about the impact that I wanted it to have if it got published. I spent a significant amount of time familiarizing myself with existing literature and engaging with other scholars’ work to see how my Note will contribute to the ongoing debate on data governance.

AH: This is a rapidly evolving field of technology, and the FDA has taken major steps even since I wrote the first draft. Trying to keep up with the field without rewriting the entire paper was a challenge.

5. How did you hear about the writing opportunity with JOLT? Did you look at other publishing opportunities? If so, why did you choose JOLT?

FW: I heard about the JOLT Writing Competition from my advisor, Professor Chris Bavitz. Professor Bavitz was very encouraging of my desire to publish, and he recommended JOLT due to the journal’s reputation. He also suggested that I reach out to Susannah Barton Tobin, the Managing Director of the Climenko Fellowship Program and Assistant Dean for Academic Career Advising. She was very helpful in suggesting publishing opportunities and explaining how the process works.

I am very honored to have my paper place in the Writing Competition and be accepted for publication, as the JOLT community has been such an important part of my law school experience.

AH: I heard about the opportunity through masthead members as well as through JOLT’s website. I had previously written for our Digest, and much of our student-focused publication material lives on the site.

6. Did you have anyone as a mentor for you during this writing process? If so, how did that impact your submissions?

FW: Professor Chris Bavitz has been an incredibly kind and helpful mentor throughout this entire process, and I am so grateful for his support. I also knew a few of the student authors who had their Student Notes published in JOLT or who were currently in the publication process on another journal, so I was able to reach out to ask them for advice when I was thinking of publishing. As a minority woman author, it was very important to me to have mentors and peers who encouraged and believed in me and my research.

AH: Peter Barton Hutt teaches Food and Drug law every year, and I couldn’t recommend it more. If you meet him -- the man is a national treasure. He provided helpful insight and guidance at every step along the way for this paper.

Submissions Process

7. How was the submissions process like for you? How long did it take you to complete the application? What portion of the application took up the most work?

FW: The submissions process was pretty straightforward. It took me about a week to finish editing my paper for submission and fill out the application. Other than the editing process, the preemption check took up the most time.

AH: I think I spent the better part of a weekend preparing the paper for submission. Most of that time was spent updating the fact section because the FDA had made certain regulatory moves even in the 3-4 months between my first draft and the call for submissions. You’ll also need to fill out a questionnaire for your paper which I don’t recommend rushing – that took about 2-3 hours.

8. Did you change your article substantially to meet the submission criteria? If so, how?

FW: I changed the article rather substantially to meet the submission criteria. My original paper was too long, so I spent a significant amount of time editing the draft. I also re-organized the paper so it would tell the story of how these two different parties with disparate privacy regimes, values and cultures came together to sign the Adequacy Decision in a more accessible manner for the audience.

AH: I’ll sound like a broken record, but the largest item that changed was the factual background section. I still worry that by the time we publish, even more will have changed. It’s a busy field!

9. When did you hear about getting accepted to be published?

FW: I submitted my paper in early December for JOLT’s Writing Competition, and I received notice that it was accepted for publication in mid-January.

AH: I submitted specifically through JOLT’s summer writing competition, which I think I first heard about in June. I submitted shortly before the deadline to try to see exactly where FDA would be by the submission date.

10. Any general tips for applications/submissions?

FW: Don’t give up! There were many times where I wondered if investing so much time in the editing and application process was worth it, as I was not confident that my paper would be selected. It can feel overwhelming to apply, particularly as a new author, but I strongly encourage people to apply if they want to publish.

AH: Have sympathy for your reader. Make sure you submit quality writing. Keep the material simple and interesting. I think it’s easy as students to write papers that mostly summarize the state of the law in a given area; make sure you include your own analysis and thoughts as well.

11. If you had done the applications process again, how would you do so differently?

FW: I would have started with the preemption process earlier and kept a better record. I had conducted a preemption check when I first started writing, but it had been a few months since my initial preemption check. The later preemption check also influenced parts of my paper and my thesis, so it would have been helpful to do that earlier rather than later.

AH: I think I’d do my own quality control pass on my bluebook citations. I’m all for giving the subciters something to do, but I think one too many “see generally”s slipped through the cracks.

Editing process

12. How has the editing process been like for you? How much time did you put into editing since acceptance?

FW: There are typically three rounds of author edits, but as I presented an earlier draft at the Salzburg Cutler Fellowship Conference in February 2020, I asked my Article Editor to add an additional round of edits, which he was kind enough to oblige. As my Note involves empirical interviews, a significant portion of my time is spent communicating and following up with my interviewees. The project has been a significant time investment.

AH: The editing process has been very smooth; I’m lucky to have a talented article editor (AE) taking care of most of the work for me. As the author, you will typically have a one-week turnaround from your AE to get your substantive edits back to the AE to keep things running smoothly. I’d recommend making sure you know in advance which weeks you’ll need to set aside some time for edits. Don’t rush those, but also get your draft back to your AE on time so they can move forward with subcites, etc.

13. How have the communications been like between you and the Article Editor?

FW: I have truly appreciated being able to work with my Article Editor, Or-el Vaknin, throughout the editing process. Or-el has been great about checking in with me as my writing has evolved during the publishing cycle. Trust and clear communication between the author and the AE is very important. I don’t know if I could have gone through the editorial process without Or-el!

AH: Communications have been great, again, I’ve been very lucky in that respect. I highly recommend for anyone considering publication to make sure that you respond to any concerns or questions by your AE as quickly as possible. If there’s anything substantive that you want included, you need to be aware that they have deadlines on their end that they can’t change – if you don’t communicate with them on time, you may lose some of your chances to introduce changes.

14. How much has your article changed since its acceptance?

FW: I have worked with the editorial staff on organizational structure, fine-tuning certain arguments, and reframing my piece. I presented an earlier draft to a panel of professors and other law students at the Salzburg Fellowship Conference, so I was able to incorporate feedback from that experience. As an author, it is easy to overlook certain arguments or details if you have been working on a project for a long time, so I greatly appreciate the editorial process.

AH: Most of the changes to “Rehabilitation or Enhancement” have been either (1) polish or (2) clearing up convoluted points. I think that’s fairly standard – JOLT can help you clean up procedural issues, but it’s up to you to make sure substance is finalized prior to the editing process.

15. Any general tips for the editing process?

FW: I would recommend taking time away from the draft and coming back to it with fresh eyes. Returning to a particular section after a couple of days has been so helpful for writer’s block, particularly for revising certain arguments or double-checking my analysis.

I discovered that what I wanted my reader to take away from the paper and the framing of the Note evolved during the editing process, so I spent time ensuring that it reflects my voice. While it is important to incorporate feedback, you should ultimately feel confident that the piece is authentic to you.

Furthermore, I highly encourage authors to talk to as many people as possible about their paper. I felt uncomfortable telling people that I was planning on publishing and asking for feedback, but those conversations reassured me that I was on the right track or helped to inspire further insights.

AH: As above, make sure you communicate with your AE and get your changes in on time.

16. Any final thoughts/encouragement/tips to share with our readers?

FW: The path to publication has been difficult, but also deeply rewarding. I feel very fortunate that I have been able to have this experience and publish my Note. I strongly encourage students, particularly minorities and women, to apply and talk to as many people as possible about the publication process, even if it seems intimidating!

AH: Just submit your papers! I probably would not have submitted this paper if it weren’t for the encouragement of other students. It can be intimidating to think of your work being published, especially if you’ve never done so before. Get it in front of the editors and see if they like it or not – it’s very much worth the effort.