Talk: How we know: COVID-19, preprints, and the information ecosystem

I recorded a 16-minute talk on the scientific process, science communication, and how preprints fit in to the information ecosystem around COVID-19.

It’s called, “How we knowCOVID-19, preprints, and the information ecosystem.” The video is on YouTube here, also embedded below, and the slides, with references, are up here.

Happy to have your feedback, in the comments or any other way.

SocArXiv presentations: slides, audio, video

Below are the materials from two recent SocArXiv presentations: slides, audio, video. If you would like Philip Cohen or someone else to visit your institution for a presentation or workshop, let us know, and consider joining the great libraries that have already become institutional supporters of the project: details are here.

Philip Cohen did a plenary presentation at the Social Sciences Librarian Bootcamp at Tufts University. This focuses on the motivation for preprints, the pitch for social scientists, and a discussion of disrupting academic publishing more broadly. The slides are available in the SocArXiv collection here; if you would like to add the audio, or just listen (22 minutes), you can download it here or listen below:

Philip also did an Introduction to Preprints webinar with the Center for Open Science. It runs almost an hour, including Q&A, with an introduction to preprints from Philip, a description of COS’s Preprints community project from Matthew Spitzer, and a technical tutorial from COS’s Courtney Soderberg. It’s on YouTube, or watch it here:


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:

Preprint Title
Message body
Preprint abstract
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.


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


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:

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:"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

* 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.