Q&A with Richard Poynder on SocArXiv and #OA

With a great introduction and a long interview on where we stand and where we’re going.

I did an interview with Richard Poynder for his OA Interviews series. He added an excellent introductory essay on the state of open access and the potential role of services like SocArXiv. Well worth a read. This is his conclusion:

The good news is that if the preprint movement flourishes, and manages to maintain an existence independent of traditional publishers, it has the potential to complete the revolution the OA movement began. And if all else fails, it could seek to cut publishers out of the loop altogether and take back ownership of scholarly communication.

Alternatively, of course, it may – like the OA movement more generally – end up captured and exploited by legacy publishers, who will seek to use it in a way that props up the outdated and inefficient model of scholarly communication that currently allows them to make excessive profits from the public purse. Not only would this be a waste of taxpayers’ money, but it would hobble and hold back the global research endeavour.

In the long interview that followed, I provide an update on the status of SocArXiv and our plans, working with the Center for Open Science, and our upcoming conference, as well as offering my own opinions about the place of our efforts in the (potential) future of scholarly communication. I hope you will read the whole thing here.

 

Save the date: Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences, October 26-27

SocArXiv will host the inaugural O3S: Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences symposium on October 26 and 27 at University of Maryland.

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October 26-27, 2017
University of Maryland, College Park

SocArXiv will host the inaugural O3S: Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences symposium on October 26 and 27, 2017 at University of Maryland, College Park. The symposium will (a) highlight research that uses the tools and methods of open scholarship; (b) bring together researchers who work on problems of open access, publishing, and open scholarship; and (c) facilitate exchange of ideas on the development of SocArXiv.

The symposium will feature two keynote speakers: Tressie McMillan Cottom, sociology professor at Virginia Commonwealth University; and Jeffrey Spies, co-founder and chief technology officer at the Center for Open Science. Participants will also participate in panels and a workshop session on the future challenges and next steps for SocArXiv.

The O3S symposium will take place during Open Access Week, a global event raising awareness about the benefits of open access and inspiring wider participation in making open access a new norm in scholarship and research.

Check the symposium website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for information and updates. The Call for Papers announcement and registration information will be coming soon!

The O3S symposium is generously sponsored by the College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, the Department of Sociology, the University Libraries at the University of Maryland, the Sloan Foundation, and the Open Society Foundation. 

SocArXiv kicks off fundraising drive with new support

SocArXiv, open archive of the social sciences, has launched an initial round of fundraising to support outreach, development, and administration. To kick off this drive, we are delighted to announce that the libraries at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Los Angeles have each contributed $10,000 to our outreach efforts this year. The leaders of these forward-thinking organizations are stepping forward to support open scholarship in the social sciences.

SocArXiv is a partner of the nonprofit Center for Open Science (COS) and is housed at the University of Maryland, under the administrative direction of sociology professor Philip Cohen, who leads a steering committee of sociologists and academic librarians.

The archive launched in beta version on November 30. SocArXiv provides a free, noncommercial service for rapid sharing of academic papers; it is built on the Open Science Framework, a platform for researchers to upload data and code as well as research results. SocArXiv is a not-for-profit alternative to existing commercial platforms, so researchers can be assured that they are sharing their research in an environment where access, not profit, will remain at the heart of the mission.

Since development was first announced in July, researchers have deposited more than 800 papers and continue to participate at an increasing rate. We anticipate rapid growth in that number in the coming year as we establish a reputation as the fully open repository for sociology and social science research.

With COS developing the technology, SocArXiv is focusing on planning, community mobilization, outreach, and governance of the archive. To that end, the Open Society Foundations and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have each granted the initiative at the University of Maryland $50,000 for the coming year. We now seek support from institutional leaders who anticipate collaboration and participation by their constituents, and who recognize the collective benefit of this public goods infrastructure project.

We are encouraging institutional supporters to participate at one of three levels:

$1,000: Supporter. Supporters receive promotional materials for dissemination to their constituents, and public recognition of their contributions to the future of open scholarship.

$5,000: Sponsor. In addition to supporter recognition, Sponsors have the opportunity to host a webinar or workshop for their constituents with a SocArXiv representative.

$10,000: Partner. Beyond the workshop/webinar, institutions at the Partner level of support have the opportunity to be represented on the SocArXiv Advisory Board, currently in formation, which we anticipate will have two online meetings per year, to evaluate progress and challenges, and to help set direction for governance and development.

Please contact us to discuss how we can work together.

Social science without walls

All the reasons we became social scientists seem more important than ever before in our careers.

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From the SocArXiv Steering Committee:

As many social scientists prepare for the March for Science on April 22, here is a reflection on the moment we’re in.

This is a time in which many social scientists feel a greater urgency in our work, and a heightened motivation to solve the problems we knew we faced already. All the reasons we became social scientists seem more important than ever before in our careers. That’s why we’re glad to have SocArXiv, which is here for social scientists to realize our goals:

  • We want our work to be better, to benefit from the knowledge and collaboration of our peers as well as experts and concerned people outside of academia, and around the world.
  • We want our work to be more efficient, to get more done with less money, to produce better results while moving more quickly from insight through publication.
  • We want our work to me more relevant, to bring our expertise to bear on the issues of today — and tomorrow — without being blocked by national, disciplinary, or financial barriers.
  • We want our work to be less hierarchical, to be more democratic in its development, more open in its dissemination, and more responsive to the people we study and serve.

Open scholarship is how we approach these goals. Open source, open access research infrastructure allows us to make the best use of our resources, improve the process and products of our work, bring it to more people faster, and dissolve the obstacles to interaction that plague our industry. In short, we want a social science without walls.

SocArXiv is a key part of our plan to build that future social science. If you’re feeling the imperative to raise your voice, to tell your communities that social science is real, to express that we are part of the solution, and to draw more people into the world of research and the search for knowledge, we hope you will agree.

Upload a paper or browse the archive now at SocArXiv.org. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for updates, email to get involved, check out our YouTube videos, or make a contribution through the University of Maryland.

What to do about, and/or with, the American Sociological Association?

The scholarly communication system is broken, and the American Sociological Association lives off the money that brokenness creates. So, what should we do about it?

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Flickr / CC: https://flic.kr/p/sjBWi

The scholarly communication system is broken, and the American Sociological Association lives off the money that brokenness creates. So, what should we do about it?

According to the 2016 budget report, 35% of total revenue comes from journal operations. That is $2.2 million that came from institutional subscriptions (mostly paid by the libraries of colleges and universities where ASA members work), under the contract with Sage publishing. Increasingly, these subscriptions are part of big Sage bundles of journals, in which individual libraries have little say over what they’re actually buying. Publishing the journals, in turn, costs 11% of total expenses, or about $717,000. That doesn’t mean the association nets $1.5 million (68%) profit, because some of the other expenses go to running the publication contracts, including a publications manager and other staff time. But journal publishing produces money for other things the association does. As you read this ASA is looking for opportunities to create more paywalled journals, to generate more money for the association (in addition to whatever good additional journals are supposed to accomplish).

At the same time, ASA — like other paywall publishers — is in an increasingly defensive position, as open access alternatives spread (including preprint servers like SocArXiv), and the cost of technologically and legally defending the paywall increases under pressure from Sci-Hub (which I wrote about here) and various other breaches. In a quasi-official statement from the ASA, publications director Karen Edwards wrote that Sci-Hub, “threatens the well-being of ASA and our sister associations as well as the peer assessment of scholarship in sociology and other academic disciplines.” Without the paywall, in other words, peer review itself cannot survive.

More generally, the staff has raised alarms about the sustainability of the current model. From the Publications Committee minutes in spring 2016:  “The possibility exists that the journal world may not be as profitable in the future as it is now. The journal marketplace is shifting, and will continue to do so, so Council and EOB should keep an eye on this revenue source.”

It would be easy to say ASA should get ahead of these shifts, stop publishing paywalled journals and embrace new publication models. We know that free journals could be published for a fraction of what ASA and Sage now spend and reap. But that would mean giving up a substantial share of the association’s current income.

Of course, it’s not a simple task, even as good people are working hard on solutions. A recent report considers 15 different scenarios for “flipping” journals from subscriptions to open access, with evidence on a variety of outcomes and experiences. A white paper by Rebecca Kennison (who serves on the SocArXiv steering committee) and Lisa Norberg proposes a model in which scholarly societies and academic libraries form a new partnership to remake scholarly publication in the humanities and social sciences. I described that proposed future like this:

The basic design of the system to come is we cut out the for-profit publishers, and ask the universities and federal agencies that currently pay for research twice — once for the researchers, and once again for their published output — to agree to pay less in exchange for all of it to be open access. Instead, they pay into a central organization that administers publication funds to scholarly associations, which produce open-access research output.

Solutions will require creativity, collaboration, and hard work. Designing a new system is relatively easy, but moving today’s institutional actors in that direction is not.

For ASA

ASA in particular is unlikely to leap forward with a new solution. The simplest explanation for that is the money at stake, which pays for things that the key decision makers want, including salaries, but also everything from receptions and hotel suites to minority fellowships and policy briefs. Taking concrete steps requires an assessment of how the association works, especially the imbalance between the members and their elected representatives on the one hand and the professional staff on the other (see the aforementioned Edwards post for a sense of their stance).

My cynical view may be slightly exaggerated but it is more true than not. I see elected sociologists come and go from various positions in the association. Some, like journal editors, are specialized experts uniquely qualified for their jobs. But many are punching professional service tickets on their way up the chain, people who may be great sociologists but without expertise in or commitments to specific aspects of the organization. Awards committee, subcommittee member, ad hoc committee member, committee on committees member, and so on. Even the members of the Publications Committee and the Council mostly have little expertise or knowledge about academic publishing (I include myself in that, although I have learned a lot since I first attended the Pub Com meetings as a non-voting editor a few years ago), and rely on the professional staff to explain this world to them.

Our work in these roles is important, but mostly it doesn’t much matter who does it, because the range of motion for individuals is extremely limited. We are interchangeable. In contrast, the staff are trained professionals who stick around for a long time. Most of the member interaction with them involves listening to the facts the staff present, asking questions, considering and then approving their recommendations. At least that’s how it usually works on the important matters, the things that affect the association’s income stream. These staff people are very devoted to the organization and work hard at it, and I have nothing against them personally, but their structural role is as institutional brake on change.

However, the members could – with concerted effort – set the direction of the association. Here are some smaller and larger suggestions for specific actions ASA members could take. These are things candidates for office in the association could propose in their election campaigns, things committee members could implement in their committees, things the membership could ask for from their leaders.

  1. Set high-level, long-term goals, and hold staff accountable for developing plans to implement them. For example, within 7 years we will find new ways to fund them, and flip our journals to open access. Start developing and fundraising now. This is the most ambitious suggestion, as it will require acting over the strenuous efforts of the professional staff. But with mobilization, signatures, a referendum, or whatever, it is conceivable. The political will is not there for this yet, but someday this may have a greater chance of success than convincing the staff to move in that direction one step at a time, without a high-level mandate. That is, timidly asking for a report or suggestions will not work. Sage, too, is expert at diverting such weak impulses, as evidenced by their implementation of an open access journal for ASA (Socius), which served as a pressure release valve for open access sentiment among the members. It will take stronger stuff to move ASA for real, so that’s probably for down the road.
  2. Become a signatory to the Center for Open Science’s Transparency and Openness Promotion (TOP) Guidelines, and conduct a review of the standards for potential adoption within one year. The guidelines are incremental, but they set an important tone and direction. This could be done with a vote of the Council. Or, individual journal editorial boards could implement them. ASA staff and Council may say journals aren’t allowed to do this, but this hasn’t been tested. The actual rules limiting the power of editors are much vaguer than you think.
  3. Take steps to promote open scholarship norms in the profession:
    • Require paper awards to limit nominees to publicly-available papers, like we did with the dissertation award. Having a paper considered for an award is a privilege, not a right, and having it considered in secret is not a reasonable accommodation. Let’s just say, if you want your paper considered, let’s all have a look. If that makes you uncomfortable, that’s fine – there are plenty of great sociologists who deserve awards.
    • Require journals to make clear they will consider submissions of papers that have been shared in public repositories such as SocArXiv, without prejudice. This could be a simple statement from the editors, or it could from a statement by the Publications Committee or Council. It’s not really a change in policy, which already permits consideration of papers that have circulated, as long as they have not previously been peer reviewed.
    • Promote working paper culture by using SocArXiv or another proper open-access repository to archive and distribute papers, including conference papers and ASA research reports. Make the conference a public sharing project, modeling open scholarship norms and best practices regarding preservation and metadata.
    • Change the association’s policy stance. Lend organizational support to open scholarship initiatives and lobbying efforts. Drop opposition to federal open access policies, explicitly withdrawing earlier statements such as Sally Hillsman’s 2012 statement against the Office of Science and Technology’s public access policy.

I would be happy to hear other ideas about how and where to attempt to move ASA.

I could be wrong about the prospects for rapid structural change at ASA. But whether it’s fast or slow, progress in the right direction is likely to be driven as much by outside pressure as by internal mobilization. That’s why, in addition to pushing on the association, working on SocArXiv and other actually-existing alternatives now is a good use of effort.

New site up: Here are our most downloaded papers

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Thanks to the heroic efforts of our partners at the Center for Open Science, we’re delighted that the beta version of SocArXiv is up, running, and ready to use. Over the last four months, more than 600 papers were deposited, mostly through our temporary drop service, and downloaded over 10,000 times.

Now SocArXiv is directly integrated into the Open Science Framework Preprints service, along with other new open access depositories, like bioRxiv, engrXiv, and PsyArXiv. Visit the site SocArXiv.org, where you can search, browse, and upload your own papers.

In the weeks and months to come, we’ll be expanding our scope and debuting new features. But to give you a taste of what we’ve got and what’s to come, we’re highlighting some selected research, starting with the five most downloaded papers.

  1. Gender Mistakes and Inequality, by Chris Bourg. This sociology dissertation uses an experimental design to show how people who misidentify the gender of another person, then after interacting, realize their mistake, are subsequently less likely to use sex as a basis for interaction.
  2. Law’s Public/Private Structure, by Christian Turner. This preprint (subsequently published in the Florida State University Law Review) creates a taxonomy of the legal distinction between public and private entities based on which type control 1) the creation and definition of law, and 2) prosecution.
  3. Medical Decision Making for Youth in Foster Care, by Zach Straussberger. Forthcoming in the John Marshall Law Review, this paper reports survey and interview results on the gap between who is legally allowed to made decisions on behalf of youth in foster care, and who is typically doing so.
  4. Two Years after Alice vs. CLS Bank, by Jasper L. Tran. Recently published in the Journal of the Patent and Trademark Office Society, the paper shows that subsequent to the Alice decision, which raised the patentability standard for computer-implemented inventions, substantial majorities of challenged patents have been invalidated by the courts.
  5. Happy to Help? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Performing Acts of Kindness on the Well-Being of the Actor, by Oliver Scott Curry et al. This meta-analysis of research on whether performing acts of kindness result in a sense of well-being finds a small-to-medium positive effect across some 21 studies.

These top five papers reflect the early adoption of the site by some legal scholars. We accept papers from all social sciences as well as law. And the site allows faceted browsing and searching by subject area as well as keywords.

You can always see what’s new on the site by visiting the search page and selecting Sort by: Upload date. We’re working on new features, such as sorting by popularity. In the meantime, we’ll be highlighting more research from SocArXiv on the blog. Check it out, and add your own!

SocArXiv launches, brings sociology and social science into the open, with new grant support

SocArXiv, the open access, open source archive of social science, is officially launching in beta version today.

For more information contact: Philip Cohen, Director; pnc@umd.edu

December 7, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SocArXiv, the open access, open source archive of social science, is officially launching in beta version today. Created in partnership with the Center for Open Science, SocArXiv provides a free, noncommercial service for rapid sharing of academic papers; it is built on the Open Science Framework, a platform for researchers to upload data and code as well as research results.

By uploading working papers and preprints of their articles to SocArXiv, social scientists can now make their work immediately and permanently available to other researchers and the public, and discoverable via search engines. This alleviates the frustration of slow times to publication and sidesteps paywalls that limit the audience for academic research. Since SocArXiv is a not-for-profit alternative to existing commercial platforms, researchers can also be assured that they are sharing their research in an environment where access, not profit, will remain at the heart of the mission.

Since development was first announced in July, researchers have deposited more than 600 papers, downloaded over 10,000 times, in anticipation of SocArXiv’s launch. SocArXiv anticipates rapid growth in that number in the coming year as it establishes a reputation as the fully open repository for sociology and social science research.

“SocArXiv is an exciting opportunity to democratize access to the best of social science research,” said Katherine Newman, Provost and Senior Vice Chancellor at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. “This will assist the nation’s academics in making clear to the public why their work matters beyond the ivy walls.”

“We are building the future of social science scholarly communication,” added SocArXiv director Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, which serves as the archive’s institutional home. “It’s past time for social scientists – and sociologists in particular – to bring their work out into the open, to make it better, faster, more accountable, and more transparent.”

While the archive welcomes all social science research, the program is building from a strength in sociology, a discipline that lacks a strong tradition of preprint publication and open scholarship. With the Center for Open Science developing the technology, SocArXiv is focusing on planning, community mobilization, outreach, and governance of the archive. To that end, the Open Society Foundations and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have each granted the initiative at the University of Maryland $50,000 for the coming year.

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SocArXiv is a partner of the nonprofit Center for Open Science and is housed at the University of Maryland. Led by a steering committee of sociologists and research library leaders, it is dedicated to opening up social science, reaching more people more effectively, improving academic research, and building the future. Learn more at SocArXiv.org.