SocArXiv grants seven Sociology Open Access Recognition Awards

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Photo pnc / Flickr CC https://flic.kr/p/2ard8ch

by Kelsey Drotning

This year, in recognition of a commitment to open access publishing and research excellence, SocArXiv granted the Sociology Open Access Recognition (SOAR) award to the authors of seven papers. Each paper was shared on SocArXiv, and then won a section award from the American Sociological Association (ASA). These authors elected to make their important research accessible to researchers, practitioners, legislators, students.

Each paper won a $250 travel prize for attending the 2018 ASA meetings.

We want to thank every scholar who shared a paper on SocArXiv, and encourage all researchers to keep posting papers on SocArXiv. Showcasing award-winning papers on SocArXiv helps us get the word out and motivates others to share their work. We don’t have the money to grant the awards again next year (unless someone makes a donation for this purpose!), but we believe that openly sharing research is good for both the field and for the scholars who participate. The practice produces more interested readers, quicker feedback and citations, and more connections between scholars and those they’re trying to reach. Thank you!

If your ASA section or other scholarly community would like to use SocArXiv as a platform for your award submissions, please contact us; we’re happy to help.

Here are the 2018 SOAR award recipients, with links to the papers:

 

Sociologists: Amend your agreements with ASA/Sage

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By Philip N. Cohen

This is a followup to a previous post, and contains some duplication.

I have spoken well of the policy that permits authors to post preprint versions of their papers before submitting them to journals of the American Sociological Association. That means you can get your work out more broadly while it’s going through the review process. The rule says:

ASA authors may post working versions of their papers on their personal web sites and non-peer-reviewed repositories. Such postings are not considered by ASA as previous publication.

The policy goes on to ask that authors modify their posted papers to acknowledge publication if they are subsequently published. That’s all reasonable. This is why SocArXiv and other services offer authors the opportunity to link their papers to the DOI (record locator) for the published version, should it become available. This allows citation aggregators such as Google Scholar to link the records.

The problem

Unfortunately, the good part of this policy is undermined by the ASA / Sage author agreement that authors sign when their paper is accepted. It transfers the copyright of the paper to ASA, and sets conditions under which authors can distribute the paper in the future. The key passage here is this:

1. Subject to the conditions in this paragraph, without further permission each Contributor may …

  • At any time, circulate or post on any repository or website, the version of the Contribution that Contributors submitted to the Journal (i.e. the version before peer-review) or an abstract of the Contribution.
  • No sooner than 12 months after initial publication, post on any non-commercial repository or website the version of the Contribution that was accepted for publication.

This is not good. It means that if you post a paper publicly, e.g., on SocArXiv, and then submit it to ASA, you can’t update it to the revised version as your paper moves through the process. Only 12 months after ASA publishes it can you update the preprint version to match the version that the journal approved.

This policy, if followed, would produce multiple bad outcomes.

One scenario is that people post papers publicly, and submit them to ASA journals for review. Over the course of the next year or so, the paper is substantially revised and eventually published, but the preprint version is not updated until a full year after that, often two years after the initial submission. That means readers don’t get to see the improved version, and authors have to live with people reading and sharing their unimproved work. This discourages people from sharing their papers in the first place.

In the other scenario, people update their preprints as the paper goes through the revision process, so they and their readers get the benefit of access to the latest work. However, when the paper is accepted authors are expected to remove from public view that revised paper, and only share the pre-review version. If this were feasible, it would be terrible for science and the public interest, as well as the author’s career interests. Of course, this isn’t really feasible — you can’t unring the bell of internet distribution (SocArXiv and other preprint services do not allow removing papers, which would corrupt the scholarly record.) This would also discourage people from sharing their papers in the first place.

The individual solution

Fortunately, you are a volitional agent in a free market information ecosystem, and you don’t have to just sign whatever PDF some corporate conglomerate puts in front of you. My suggestion is that you amend the agreement before you sign it. After receiving your acceptance, when the managing editor sends you the author agreement for your signature, politely notify the editor that you will be happy to sign the agreement with a minor amendment. Then strike through the offending text and add the amendment. I recommend the following text:

  • No sooner than 12 months after initial publication, post on any non-commercial repository or website the version of the Contribution that was accepted for publication.
  • At any time, post to SocArXiv (a non-commercial, open-access repository) the version of the Contribution that was accepted for publication, with a DOI link and bibliographic reference to the published Contribution.

Then sign the agreement and return it. Here’s a visual depiction of the amendment:

sage amendment

Don’t panic! Yes, this publication may be the last thing standing between you and tenure or a better job. But the journal will not cancel your publication when you do this. The very worst thing that will happen is they will say “No!” Then you can roll over and accept the original agreement. (After the dust settles, I’d love it if you let me know this happened.) People amend these agreements all the time. Give it a try!

Here’s the relevant passage in “Alice’s Restaurant” (@ 14:32)

And the only reason I’m singing you this song now is cause you may know somebody in a similar situation, or you may be in a similar situation,

And if you’re in a situation like that there’s only one thing you can do and that’s walk into The shrink wherever you are, just walk in say “Shrink, You can get anything you want, at Alice’s restaurant.” And walk out.

You know, if one person, just one person does it they may think he’s really sick and they won’t take him. And if two people, two people do it, in harmony – they may think they’re both faggots and they won’t take either of them. And three people do it, three, can you imagine, three people walking in singing a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out. They may think it’s an organization. And can you, can you imagine fifty people a day, I said fifty people a day walking in singin a bar of Alice’s Restaurant and walking out.

And friends they may think it’s a movement And that’s what it is, the Alice’s Restaurant Anti-Massacree Movement, and all you got to do to join is sing it the next time it comes around on the guitar. With feeling.

Fix the policy

So, what possible reason can there be for this policy? It is clearly intended to punish the public in order to buttress the revenue stream of Sage, which returns some of its profits to ASA, at the expense of our libraries, which pay for subscriptions to ASA journals.

I assume this policy is never enforced, as I’ve never heard of it, but I don’t know that for a fact. It’s also possible that whoever wrote the Publications policy I linked above didn’t realize that it contradicted the Sage author agreement, which basically no one reads. I also assume that such a policy does not in fact have any effect on Sage’s profits, or the profits that it kick backs to ASA. So it’s probably useless, but if it has any effects at all they’re bad, by discouraging people from distributing their work. ASA should change this author agreement.

I just got elected to the ASA Publications Committee, so I will add making this change to my platform, which I outlined here. I’m not optimistic about making policy changes at ASA in the current environment, but I am sure that the more people who join in the individual efforts, the greater our chances will be.

Grand challenges for open scholarship

MIT Libraries’ Grand Challenges will help set a research agenda for the development of open scholarship.

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In his keynote address, Joi Ito showed a picture of a briefcase holding the contents of Sci-Hub (tens of millions of papers), en route to India, where they may end up being legally distributed to teachers and students.

MIT Libraries just hosted a Grand Challenges summit on Information Science and Scholarly Communication. It comprised three 1.5-day workshops on (1) scholarly discovery, (2) digital curation and preservation, and (3) open scholarship (described here). The director of MIT Libraries, Chris Bourg, is on SocArXiv’s steering committee, and I was invited to participate in the open scholarship workshop, so we were well represented (participant list).

The workshops focused on defining core challenges and proposing a research agenda to address them in a 7- to 10-year time frame. This builds on MIT’s Task Force of the Future of Libraries report, among other efforts. The organizers and participants will produce a report on this agenda in the next few months; we’ll report back.

In the meantime, I wanted to highlight one of the recommended readings, a paper by Micah Altman (the libraries’ director of research) and Marguerite Avery, “Information wants someone else to pay for it: Laws of information economics and scholarly publishing.” It’s an excellent introduction to the problem of markets in scholarly publishing, very approachable for social scientists interested in the political economy of what the jargon calls the “scholarly communication ecosystem.”

In general, the trends in scholarly communication are more, more and more. In 2011, the value of the market in 2011 was estimated to be $23.5 billion. But there is one area in which the trend is “less” and that is in market competition. Although the number of publications and journals is expanding at approximately three percent a year, and the market is expanding at four percent, the number of mergers and acquisitions over the past three decades have dramatically decreased the diversity of and competition among publishers. Today, following the recent merger of MacMillan and Springer, the market is dominated by a handful of companies: Pearson, Reed Elsevier, Springer, Taylor & Francis, Thomson/Reuters and Wolters Kluwer. These companies happen to be the top four publishing companies globally as well. And this is the culmination of a long-term trend: over the last three decades, there has been dramatic consolidation in the scholarly publishing industry. Profit margins are commensurately high, with some credible estimates of Elsevier’s profit margin as high as thirty-seven percent. Thus far, there are no signs that the general expansion of the content, contributors, and audience for scholarly outputs has countered this decline in competition.

The paper offers explanations for this failure of market competition, concluding:

Even in the long run, economic theory itself predicts that left to the market, too little knowledge will be created, too little used, and access to too much of what is available will be controlled by a small group of distributors.

They further caution that openness itself — especially defined only as free-to-read, does not a guarantee a system of “robust, sustainable scholarly communication.”

We may reach the point when the small number of for-profit companies that control academic publishing are able to describe their publishing output as “open access,” while simultaneously cementing their control over knowledge.

Finally, Altman and Avery offer a list of the “affordances” offered by current academic publications — the uses that different groups or institutions expect from them — and propose using new technology to unbundle these tasks, rather than presume they will remain bundled in the current, relatively ancient system of publication. This is a useful exercise for imagining future scholarly communication systems. Here is their table of affordances:

Table 1 from Altman & Avery 2015: DOI 10.3233/ISU-150775

One of my goals for the next year is assembling a curriculum on academic publishing, suitable for beginning social scientists and others interested in learning how this system works, the better to change it. This paper, and the work coming out of the MIT Grand Challenges summit, will be on the list. Please feel free to add your suggestions in the comments, or send them to me at pnc@umd.edu.

Where SocArXiv is now

A good time to sum up our progress.

We just completed our first O3S conference, and we’re wrapping up our first year of support from the Sloan and Open Societies foundations. So it’s a good time to sum up our progress.

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O3S networking break / photo PNC

Open Scholarship for the Social Sciences

More even than we had hoped, the O3S conference turned into a great mechanism for fundraising, outreach, and generating innovating ideas. We had about 20 presenters (many of them junior scholars, whose travel we paid for), and almost 50 registrants. Participants came from as far as Chile, California, Michigan, Minnesota, Toronto, and from the Washington area. They included sociologists, librarians, economists and other scholars, software developers, publishers, and open access advocates. UMD campus leaders and the library were very supportive, and we are optimistic about their continued support for an annual conference. The panels were all high quality, the audience was engaged, the keynotes were riveting, and the workshop was highly productive. In addition to the panels and registrants, a great group of graduate students volunteered to support the conference. (We’ll have more on the workshop and new ideas later.)

SocArXiv service

We have almost 1600 papers on SocArXiv, and October has been our biggest month yet (135 papers). We are small compared with the big disciplinary paper services, but growing more each month, with a widening community of users. Our high visibility launch last fall led to a burst of activity, and now 15 other community preprint services have followed us on the OSF Preprints server. This includes some key players, such as LawArXiv (which we were instrumental in bringing to the OSF system), PsyArXiv (which has developed a relationship with the American Psychological Association), the LIS Scholarship Archive for library science (which is making important connections to libraries), and others. We wouldn’t want to take all the credit for this healthy proliferation, but we should take some. (As an aside, I also note with some pride that nearly all the subsequent communities on OSF Preprints include librarians on their Steering Committees.)

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We are about to start using the OSF’s expanded moderation system, allowing us and the other communities to have a customized paper moderation workflow. This has already turned into a great way for us to recruit volunteers, and generated lively discussion about moderation principles and related governance questions.

At the American Sociological Association meetings this summer, we launched the Sociology Open Award Recognition program, which encourages sections of the ASA to run use SocArXiv for paper award nominations. This led to discussion with more than 10 sections representing thousands of sociologists, several of which adopted variations on our program, with others still considering proposals.

Fundraising

We were able to leverage our foundation grants to help motivate others to contribute to SocArXiv. This includes two gifts of $10,000 from libraries (MIT and UCLA), and about $25,000 from the Sociology Department, College of Behavioral and Social Sciences, and Libraries at the University of Maryland, for our conference (including in-kind contributions). We have also opened up a very promising dialogue with the Red OA group at ARL (which seeks upstream initiatives to strengthen open publishing), which may lead to additional support from libraries, and there are some other leads.

Peer review

Partly motivated by the Red OA initiative, our next project addresses the question of peer review. The Center for Open Science is working to integrate peer review capacity on the OSF Preprints platform (through partnerships and/or their own technology). While that proceeds, we want to figure out what our research community wants and needs most from an open peer review platform. Should we run our own “journals,” work with existing journals, create an open platform for overlay journals, or some other alternative? We have initiated conversations about convening researchers to address these questions, to include also research into peer review processes, which might entail surveys, focus groups, or experimental research. In this effort we are fortunate to have the leadership of Elizabeth Popp Berman, a sociologist on our steering committee who specializes in the sociology of knowledge, and science and technology studies. (Here is a recent essay I wrote on open peer review.)

Needs for the coming year

The peer review project will need funding in the coming year, for convening meetings and conducting research. Our other fundraising goals center on personnel and outreach. We’d like support for our research efforts, my time, and graduate assistants to handle paper moderation and research for the peer review project. And then we will need money for outreach (travel, marketing, materials), and the next O3S conference (especially travel for junior scholars). We are also in discussions with the Center for Open Science on a sustainability model for all the preprint services they host; while their service to us is free, we would like to develop a long-term plan by which the communities work together to secure the future of the system. This is an ongoing conversation.

 

The next stage of SocArXiv’s development: bringing greater transparency and efficiency to the peer review process

SocArXiv’s Philip Cohen has published an essay about the future of peer review on the LSE Impact blog. Here is the intro:

Almost 1,500 papers have been uploaded to SocArXiv since its launch last year. Up to now the platform has operated alongside the peer-review journal system rather than seriously disrupting it. Looking ahead to the next stage of its development, Philip Cohen considers how SocArXiv might challenge the peer review system to be more efficient and transparent, firstly by confronting the bias that leads many who benefit from the status quo to characterise mooted alternatives as extreme. The value and implications of openness at the various decision points in the system must be debated, as should potentially more disruptive innovations such as non-exclusive review and publication or crowdsourcing reviews.

Read the whole essay here.

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.

 

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.