SocArXiv goes to the American Sociological Association

We wrote previously to urge sociologists to upload their papers for the American Sociological Association conference. On the Scatterplot blog, steering committee member Dan Hirschman wrote to invite you to the annual blogger party, now including SocArXiv. It will be Sunday, August 21 from 4pm-7pm at The Pine Box Bar, 1600 Melrose Ave, in Seattle, and everyone is welcome.

At the party, or anywhere you see one, get a button! (with magnetic clips that won’t harm your clothes, and that you can stick to your fridge or filing cabinet later):

button-pic

And we have flyers, suitable for printing or sharing online (click to enlarge):

SocArXiv flyer

Or in PDF format, in black-and-white or color.

Please share!

Meanwhile, a few brief updates:

  1. We have more than 300 papers in the archive already, from people using the temporary email upload service. Check them out at SocArXiv.org (and, of course, upload your own). They are from a wide variety of disciplines, including sociology, communications, law, political science, geography, and others.
  2. We expect the full site to launch this fall. It will have full search and discovery tools, an easy form for entering your own author information, subjects and tags, and tools for editing papers online.
  3. Our partners at the Center for Open Science are working with Google Scholar to get papers indexed by their service (they are currently discoverable by Google, but not Scholar), and with SHARE to allow setting up feeds and notifications for papers posted to the site.
  4. The paper server has welcomed two new partners, in psychology (PsyArXiv) and engineering (engrXiv). Don’t worry about our work being arbitrarily separated between disciplines, though, as it is easy to post papers to different sections in one easy upload (described here).
  5. We have much more work to do. We are organizing working groups in four areas to develop the site, its features, and governance model. Please email socarxiv@gmail.com if you are interested in contributing to the Outreach, Governance, Interface, or Reviewing groups.
  6. Finally, we are preparing a fundraising campaign, to include individual and institutional donors. If you (or your institution) would like to make a tax-deductible contribution to SocArXiv through the University of Maryland, visit: http://go.umd.edu/SocArXiv, or email.

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Sociologists: Where’s your paper?

conversation-better

Thousands of sociologists are writing papers right now. As the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association approaches (August 20-23, Seattle) In the next month, many of them will perform an archaic ritual. They will send their paper to the discussant for their upcoming panel. The discussant will have the right to read and discuss any aspect of the paper at the conference — but not to share it with the public or other scholars.

Then, at the conference, the author will spend 15 or 20 minutes presenting some parts of the paper, and the discussant will verbally comment on it before an audience of 0 to 100 people, including at least a few people (the other panelists) with a demonstrated interest in the topic. Afterward, those who are interested may approach the author and ask for a copy of the paper.

The presentation is open to anyone — who happens to be physically in the room — and the paper is now “out there,” but in just about the least accessible form possible: a verbal presentation, with slides. This can all lead to good conversations and exchanges of information and insights. This conference presentation goes on everyone’s CV. The whole thing is “public” in the way that public was defined 100 years ago.

Of course, technology has changed this. People send the papers electronically now. Some share them with friends and colleagues. Some papers are already under review at peer-reviewed journals. And some are posted on personal websites or in institutional repositories. But the vast majority are not available outside the room of the conference.

Technology — and social organization — now allow us to improve on this process dramatically. That paper can be posted on an open-access paper server and shared much more widely (see instructions for SocArXiv here). Other panelists and colleagues who are attending the conference can read the paper before the session, maybe commenting, or deciding to attend the session and be part of the conversation. Other researchers can learn from the work and respond, too. Members of the actual public can see what’s going on and respond. In short, the research can come out of its shell.

ASA2016: Tag, share, build community

When you submit your paper at SocArXiv.org, you get a permanent URL. If you put this on your slides and handouts at the conference, interested readers get to your work immediately. Further, when you tag your paper with the ASA2016 tag (very simple instructions here), anyone can browse over and read it. Tag with your session number (tell your fellow panelists!) or a tag for your department, working group, or Twitter hashtag. Build your community, widen the circle, promote inclusivity, make your work matter more.

Worries

Here are some common concerns about posting conference papers, with responses:

What if the paper isn’t ready, or is wrong?

It is understood that these are usually not “final” versions of the paper. In fact, the conference rules require it, forbidding papers that have been “published prior to the meeting or accepted for publication before being submitted to organizers for consideration.” But you are already presenting it to the people who are most likely to see and care about its flaws: other researchers at the conference. Widening the circle may be worrying or intimidating, but that’s part of what you’re trying to do. We believe the benefits (to the researcher and public) outweigh the risks. Of course, if you have errors in the paper you want to find that out as soon as possible and get it right. Being wrong now is part of the normal workflow — being wrong later can be a major problem.

What if someone steals my ideas?

The program at the conference is good for stamping your work as your own. It’s a recognized form of notification for the academic community. But it doesn’t actually include the content of the paper. Posting the paper on a public server, time-stamped for all to see, is even better protection, especially for junior scholars. Of course, bad people can do bad things, but they probably are already. And with a public, citable version, at least you have the norms of the profession on your side if any dispute arises. As our Center for Open Science partner Jeff Spies pointed out, finding a like-minded scholar early in the process gets you a collaborator — finding them later gets you a competitor.

What if posting my paper discourages a journal from publishing it?

No respectable journal prohibits publishing papers that have been shared in working-paper form (and the ASA rule cited above doesn’t prohibit sharing in this form). The conference presentation is already public, it’s just public in a much less open and inclusive way. When you subsequently publish the paper, you can update the version on SocArXiv, and provide a link to the journal version. The link you receive with your submission is permanent and will always take people to the current version of the paper. (For specific journal policies, check out the RoMEO database.) And of course you can remove it from the archive if you choose.

Open is your friend

We have already written some more about why posting your paper to SocArXiv is a good idea, for you and your research, and the wider community. By using what (to the user) is pretty simply technology, we can make our work better, faster, and more engaging. We hope you will try it out.

At the conference, display the Where’s Your Paper? SocArXiv button to let people know you posted yours (or support those who did). And come to the 13th Annual ASA Blog Get-Together & SocArXiv Party: Sunday, Aug 21 from 4pm-7pm, at The Pine Box Bar (1600 Melrose Ave, Seattle).

The conversation gets better when someone says, “Where’s your paper?” and the answer is: “Here.”

The server is open now in a temporary, preliminary form. We want to hear from as many people as possible about what they need from an open archive. And we need people to get involved as moderators, reviewers, and volunteers to build the organization.

Tag research on SocArXiv to create communities of scholarship

Note this advice is now obsolete because our temporary system has been replaced. But tagging papers is still a great idea! See our FAQ page to get started.

Now that SocArXiv has a quick-and-easy email drop set up for you to upload papers, it’s time to start thinking about how the system can improve the quality and impact of our scholarship. Even with this very simple (for the user) technology, we can already facilitate enhanced collaboration among scholars and public sharing of scholarship — and when those two goals are met together, it is to the benefit of both.

Here’s one way: tagging papers.

I don’t have to tell you that hashtags on Twitter and other social media platforms have proven to be an effective tool for rapidly organizing many people around key ideas and events. We can use the same concept on SocArXiv, using the simple tools already provided by the Open Science Framework (OSF). Now you can upload a paper, essay, bibliography, dataset, code, or any other research product (assuming you have the right to distribute it), and tag it, allowing instant discovery and sharing among scholars and the public simultaneously.* When different people use the same tag, they and their work are brought together for themselves and others to see and share.

Here’s how.

First, the instructions for uploading a paper. These are copied from the SocArXiv upload page.

Send an email to the following address(es) from the email account you would like used on the OSF:

The format of the email should be as follows:

Subject
Preprint Title
Message body
Preprint abstract
Attachment
Your preprint file (e.g., .docx, PDF, etc.)

Once sent, we will follow-up by sending you the permanent identifier that others can use to cite your work; you can also login and make changes, such as uploading additional files, to your project at that URL. If you didn’t have an OSF account, one will be created automatically and a link to set your password will be emailed to you; if you do, we will simply create a new project in your account. By creating an account you agree to our Terms and that you have read our Privacy Policy, including our information on Cookie Use.

It’s very simple, free, and takes just a couple minutes.

Your paper is now a project, in OSF parlance. When you click on the link provided, you see the page for the project, which includes a link to the paper. If you are the project owner, you can now add tags.

Here’s the project for my paper on race and genetics. As a SocArXiv submission, it is automatically tagged with socarxiv and Preprint (note that, unlike on Twitter, these tags are case sensitive). See how I have added the tags scientific racism, genetics, and race.

tags1

Now if you click on that tag, you will see all the OSF files that have the race tag, like this:

tags2

This shows a list of 11 items with the race tag from across the OSF. If this were your group’s tag, and you wanted to share it with other scholars, journalists, or the public, you could give them the link to this page:

https://osf.io/search/?q=(tags:%22race%22)

You can narrow your search by clicking on one of the tags associated with race, which are listed under “Improve your search.” For example, if you want to limit the search to SocArXiv papers that use race, you click on the socarxiv tag, and get this URL:

https://osf.io/search/?q=(tags:"race")%20AND%20tags:("socarxiv")

You can similarly tag your supplemental materials added as “components” (see the Add Component button above), including data and code, which you can story on OSF or other file sharing services.

Scholarship communities

This simple tagging tool allows for relatively spontaneous grouping of scholarship, as when someone says, “We need to organize the recent work on police violence,” and people start uploading and tagging their work. But it just as well facilitates more organized efforts. Just as such groupings use Twitter hashtags to pull people together, we can do the same thing with scholarship using SocArxiv and the Open Science Framework. Groups that might benefit from this tool include:

  • Working groups on a research topic
  • Panels for an upcoming conference
  • Departments or groups within departments
  • Sections of the American Sociological Association or others
  • Scholar-activist groups

Any such group can simply share the instructions above and notify participants of the associated tag.

In this early stage, we are just developing the tools and standards for the site. This simple functionality is already very powerful, but we are looking for ways to improve it and offer more options. People trying it out now will help with this development process. We hope you’ll consider it. And if you want to be involved with the development of SocArXiv, sign up for updates by emailing socarxiv@gmail.com.

* Note also that you are not limited to not-yet-published work. If your work is published in a journal that allows posting of preprints, you can post your author-submitted version on the server. The RoMEO database can tell you the preprint policy for many journals.