Announcing the development of SocArXiv, an open social science archive

It’s past time for social scientists to bring their work out into the open, to make it better, faster, more accountable, and more transparent.

July 2016

SocArXiv announces a partnership with the Center for Open Science to develop a free, open access, open source archive for social science research. The initiative responds to growing recognition of the need for faster, open sharing of research on a truly open access platform for the social sciences. Papers on SocArXiv will be permanently available and free to the public.

Social scientists want their work to be broadly accessible, but it is mostly locked up from the public and even other researchers – even when the public has paid for it. SocArXiv wants to help change that. In recent years, academic networking sites have offered to make preprints available and help researchers connect with each other, but the dominant networks are run by for-profit companies whose primary interest is in growing their business, not in providing broad access to knowledge. SocArXiv puts access front and center, and its mission is to serve researchers and readers, not to make money.

Social science is in the middle of a heated conversation about the reliability and reproducibility of our results. By partnering with the Open Science Framework, this initiative lays the groundwork for a broader project that can provide access to data and code along with papers, allow for preregistration of studies, and (if researchers choose) provide public peer review of completed work. In short, the open archive will improve our science, better connect us as scholars, help place control of the research process back in the hands of researchers instead of for-profit publishers and gatekeepers, and deepen our engagement with the public.

The first phase of the project will be a preprint server for social scientists, providing the following services:

  • Fast, free uploading of academic papers and open access for all readers
  • Free registration open to all, regardless of academic affiliation
  • Permanent identifiers that link to the latest version of a paper (authors can provide links to versions published elsewhere)
  • Full access and discoverability through Google Scholar and other research tools
  • The option to use any Creative Commons license
  • Comment and discussion on papers among registered users
  • Grouping of papers together for conferences or working groups
  • Analytics data on how often papers have been accessed
  • Easy sharing on social media sites – without requiring readers to register

As the archive grows, SocArXiv will engage the community of scholars, members of the research library community, and publishers to develop a fuller publishing platform, with post-publication peer review and evaluation, and open access electronic journals.

“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 resource will make it possible for students, faculty, researchers, policy makers, and the public at large to benefit from the wealth of information, analysis, debate and generative ideas for which the social sciences are so well known. This will assist the nation’s academics in making clear to the public why their work matters beyond the ivy walls.”

Chris Bourg, Director of MIT Libraries, added, “We need to find new, efficient ways to foster openness and inclusion in the research process. As an open-source, open-access preprint server with a post-publication review system, SocArXiv represents the kind of innovative thinking we need right now in scholarly communication.”

Each year, social scientists write thousands of papers for presentation at conferences and submission to peer-reviewed journals. These papers usually remain out of sight for months or even years, slowing the progress of research and impeding the capacity of researchers to collaborate and learn from each other’s work. With an open access preprint server, papers can be read by anyone immediately. SocArXiv will allow researchers to reap the benefits of openness and sharing while protecting the record of their scholarly contributions.

For example, an author may post a working paper to be presented at a conference. After presenting the paper and receiving feedback, the author revises the paper (now updated on SocArXiv) and submits it for publication. After further revisions, the paper is published a year later, and a link is posted at SocArXiv from the final preprint to the published version. All along the research was open to the public – who were invited to share and comment – while the researcher’s authorship was publicly marked, and the work was available for citation. All scholars will retain control over the papers they post, including the ability to revise them (with or without allowing access to previous versions) or to remove them from the archive.

In addition, papers on SocArXiv may be linked to the full suite of services available free through the Open Science Framework. OSF supports project management and collaboration, connects services across the research lifecycle, and archives data, materials, and other research objects for private use or public sharing. OSF also provides project preregistration to improve research transparency and accountability.

“We are building the future of social science scholarly communication,” said 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 to bring their work out into the open, to make it better, faster, more accountable, and more transparent.”

With the Center for Open Science as a technology partner, Cohen added, “there is nothing to stop us from making this future a reality. The barriers to openness now are social and political, not economic or technological.”

SocArXiv is directed by a steering committee of sociologists and members of the research library community. They are:

An advisory board with representation from a wide array of research communities is in formation.

Visit SocArXiv.org for more information or to sign up for updates. Follow us on Twitter or Facebook. To make a tax-deductible contribution to SocArXiv through the University of Maryland, visit: http://go.umd.edu/SocArXiv.

arXiv is a trademark of Cornell University, used under license.