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Sociological Science is coming

Jenn Lena broke the news before I could.  I’ll add my excitement and say that creating an open source sociology journal with a fast and limited review process that allows online comments and community engagement is something that needed to happen. And it IS happening. In Fall 2013 you can submit your papers to Sociological Science and, if you get through the evaluation process, you can see your paper published within months of submission.  One of the most exciting aspects of the journal is how reviews work. Rather than forcing authors to go through months (or years) of agonizing back-and-forth with reviewers, the editors will make an up-or-down decision based on an initial review. The reviews will be evaluative, not developmental. Once published, readers can respond to articles and “challenge or extend other people’s work.” Publication will be continuous, and so as soon as your article has been accepted and edited, it will go online as a published article.

I think the journal is going to fill an important niche in sociology. I hope that one consequence of the journal will be to pressure other journals to speed up the process and to make publications be more interactive.  It’s still too early to tell how the journal will fare in attracting high quality papers. I sincerely hope that people will send some of their best stuff to the journal. If they do, then I wonder what consequence this will have for the vast set of secondary/specialist journals in our field. Journals like Social Forces and Social Problems will be those most likely to take hits.

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Written by brayden king

May 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Posted in brayden, research, sociology

32 Responses

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  1. I suspect that a major market for this journal may be ABDs on the job market. They’ll send their best stuff to Soc Sci if they can get fast turnarounds.

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    bork

    May 7, 2013 at 10:38 pm

  2. Intriguing. My question is how will articles published here be perceived/valued in the hiring and RTP process at universities. I am not sure publishing in this new journal would “count” at my university, and I am not even at an R1 institution…

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  3. Jonathan’s question is why I’m predicting most of the submissions will be from tenured faculty, except during the summer (ie, right before job market / tenure review season) when there will be a seasonal burst of submissions from ABDs and 5th year assistants.

    Middle Status Conformity Rules Everything Around Me

    Like

    gabrielrossman

    May 7, 2013 at 11:43 pm

  4. ps, that’s all in the short-run, when the journal’s prestige is missing data. In the long-run you’ll see it develop a stable reputation. In the best case scenario it will stabilize at a solid #3, at which point the seasonal nature of its submissions will moderate.

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    gabrielrossman

    May 7, 2013 at 11:46 pm

  5. I have to clap for one of the best moves that our sociology community here in the US has ever made in the past decade. I will definitely submit some of my best papers there. By the way, I am not an ABD, nor a last-minute-crave-for-pub assistants. This is the philosophy that I stand by. Open Source! Here usher in its best allies: Emacs, LaTex, OpenOffice, Python, R, Ubuntu, and more….

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    John

    May 8, 2013 at 12:01 am

  6. Yeah, what Gabriel said.

    I hope it succeeds.

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    Kieran Healy

    May 8, 2013 at 12:18 am

  7. Any orgtheory perspectives on why open access journals (or journals in general) thrive or languish? This interesting new sociology journal seems to lack association with a scholarly society or particular school that would be motivated to keep it going if the initial team of highly qualified scholars gets overwhelmed.

    I’m familiar with two open access journals related to sociology. In 2005, Rodney Stark started an open access religion journal, initially paying authors $1,000 for successful submissions (http://socrel.oxfordjournals.org/content/65/4/local/advertising.pdf). In 2005, the journal published 12 articles. I’m not sure when it stopped paying authors but since 2005, no annual volume has had 12 or more articles. It doesn’t charge publication fees. Max Planck doesn’t charge any fees for publication in Demographic Research either. Demographic Research has published 32 articles thus far in the current six-month volume. It seems to be a particularly successful example of a sociology-related open access journal.

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    Conrad Hackett

    May 8, 2013 at 12:27 am

  8. Outstanding news. We are living with 19th century journals. I hope this shakes things up. I wish them success.

    One question: what is the standard they use? PLoS uses technical competence. Or would this journal use the standard of similar to a top journal publication? Interesting to find out.

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    fabiorojas

    May 8, 2013 at 12:46 am

  9. @Conrad – I believe the Journal of World Systems Research is already open access – well, not a Creative Commons-type Open Access, but it’s completely free (as in beer) and entirely online, which is close enough for these purposes, I think. It’s the journal of the PEWS section of ASA.

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    Dan Hirschman

    May 8, 2013 at 1:27 am

  10. What about getting in Web of Science? How does that happen?

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    Philip N. Cohen

    May 8, 2013 at 1:50 am

  11. I think the quick success of Mobilization in becoming an ISI ranked journal and recognized top specialty for social movements is a case study in how a journal can take off. It seems to me the editors did a great job in getting their early issues full of articles by top scholars, which legitimated the whole enterprise. Sociological Science should do the same…

    But the reputation needs to be set and set high before it’ll make its way into acceptability for tenure and review purposes. My department insists that a) online journals don’t count, b) review articles don’t count (presumably including ARS), and c) non “empirical” pieces don’t count (I guess being a social theorist is out). It’s hard to imagine that a journal like Sociological Science would pass the bar.

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    cwalken

    May 8, 2013 at 2:12 am

  12. @Philip: It takes a while to get into Web of Science and it isn’t easy. “Around 10-12% of the journals evaluated are accepted for coverage.”
    http://thomsonreuters.com/products_services/science/free/essays/journal_selection_process/
    I seem to remember getting Mobilization in required a lobbying effort.

    Getting a DOI is easier. I think it costs about a dollar an article for independent publishers. DOIs make it easier for Web of Science to figure out when your articles are being cited.

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    neal caren

    May 8, 2013 at 2:14 am

  13. PLOS one did a similar strategy. High status early articles.

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    fabiorojas

    May 8, 2013 at 2:54 am

  14. I’d be surprised if this has any kind of long-term impact. It’s not that I don’t think this idea is valid. We definitely need new publishing models. But this ain’t it. My concern is (1) their “how does it work” page mentions zero about how they plan to make this a sustainable venture (institutional backing? funding?). and (2) the website looks like it uses a free WP theme — and a badly designed one at that — so already I doubt their technical savvy to make something similar to PLoS or arXiv happen.

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    John

    May 8, 2013 at 5:02 am

  15. Appreciate Conrad’s response.

    Why are they charging Authors for review and then for Publication. The place where I work , this is looked as a “Paid for publication”, (Even if this cost is modest. Modest by US or EU standards may be significant cost for other Asian nationalities) . And this is disparaging. Some other model for generating revenues enough to meet the expenses of journal is required. If this aspect can be work out, this will be ideal place to Publish any work. And that will be the way to move forward.

    If this succeeds , I am sure that other streams in Social and other science will follow the suit.

    I welcome more discussion/debate on this.

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    fotostep

    May 8, 2013 at 5:26 am

  16. One of the problems I have with PLoS ONE is that its volume of published articles has become so huge that I can no longer find interesting papers just by looking at its monthly table of contents. Consequently, PLoS does not have the ‘filter’ function that high-ranked journals like AJS have. I wonder how this will work out for Sociological Science.

    As an aside, I find the name kind of awkward… the “-logy” in sociology already means “study”, so “Science” seems to be redundant here…

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    Rense Corten

    May 8, 2013 at 11:20 am

  17. I agree with Gabriel although am not convinced that the ABD strategy would work in the beginning (I can see it better for soon-up-for-promotion types, although even there it’ll depend). I’ll be curious to see how the editors can maintain the effort, it seems like a lot of work potentially. I appreciate some of the details on the “How Does It Work?” page and will be curious how that all works out (e.g., I very much welcome the idea of skipping bloated literature reviews and am curious to see what comes of that, i.e., whether they really stick to it.. of course, depends on the types of submissions that come in).

    Like

    Eszter Hargittai

    May 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm

  18. Disclaimer: I’m one of the deputy editors and part of the founding board of Sociological Science, although I’m speaking here only for myself.

    @fotostep: what other model do you suggest? I see three basic choices for funding a journal: institutional/individual subscriptions, authors, or external support from a university, private foundation, or government (unlikely in the US).

    Institutional/personal subscriptions eliminate the benefits of open access, and exclude scholars who are working at less well-off institutions. This is true whether journal subscription costs are embedded in the dues of a membership organization or not.

    External funds are subject to the whims of the funding organization, and in the worst case scenario could open up a journal to conflicts of interest and undue influence by foundation donors and/or politicians.

    Permanently tying a journal to a department has potential intellectual costs, and can severely limit the pool of willing and able editors. It also makes a truly collaborative effort like Sociological Science harder (the deputy editors and editor-in-chief are in 5 different departments), and shifts more of the organizational burden to the editor who is at the university that houses the journal.

    That leaves authors. I don’t see how it is “disparaging” to charge authors to submit and publish papers. Authors already pay submission fees at virtually all major journals, whether our work is accepted or not. Publishing fees aren’t common in sociology anymore, but are in other disciplines.

    Perhaps you are reacting to a model that charges authors a submission fee and a publishing fee. Frankly, it seems more fair to charge authors a small submission fee and a per page publishing fee if their papers are accepted than it is to charge a larger submission fee up front and no publishing fees later. Under the latter model, the 90% of papers that are rejected are partly subsidizing the 10% that are accepted. Granted, a $60 submission fee may be a small price to pay for three developmental reviews, even if the paper is rejected; in Sociological Science’s model, which exchanges developmental reviews for quick evaluations, it’s not clear that this is still true.

    An added bonus: if authors are charged by the page, there would be more incentive to write concise papers of the length one sees in, for example, psychology.

    Sociological Science hasn’t nailed down how much it will charge authors. Still, our costs will be lower than traditional hard copy journals, and we’re certainly not out to make a buck. (Sociological Science is incorporated as a non-profit, and the editors aren’t being paid or otherwise compensated for their time.)

    Thanks, all, for your comments and support for the enterprise.

    Like

    kim weeden

    May 8, 2013 at 1:06 pm

  19. Again, PLoS ONE may serve as an example: there, authors pay a publication fee, but this fee is negotiable if you can argue convincingly that you don’t have the funds. Eventually, I think we will increasingly see submission- and publication fees explicitly included in the budgets of grant proposals.

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    Rense Corten

    May 8, 2013 at 2:39 pm

  20. I think one of the more interesting problems the journal will face is establishing evaluative standards. A field like sociology has very little consensus about what constitutes good scholarship. We use a diversity of methods and our theories are fairly fragmented. This is one reason, I think, that the review process takes so long. Reviewers have to haggle with authors until they can be convinced that the finding is 1) real and 2) interesting or at least be persuaded that others will find it be one of the two.

    I like the idea of having a journal that allows the discussion of a scientific finding to continue online after its publication, which seems to be one of the new things this journal is doing, but I’d hate to see this discussion devolve into a mandatory derogatory comments sections in which scholars take turns telling each other why they’re wrong. You’re essentially making what was once a private review process quite public. I can see less established (or even many status-conscious established folks) feeling hesitant about putting anything out where they might be publicly lambasted for not using fixed-effects or for failing to using a field experiment to properly identify causality. Perhaps even worse, nobody comments on the papers at all because of the potentially negative reputational consequences for everyone involved (e.g., who wants to tell a grad student in a public forum that his paper is wrong?).

    The evaluative bar has to be set high enough to give the journal credibility and to make it worth reading, but it can’t be set so high (or applied in such varied ways) that only 1 or 2 papers a year get through the up-or-down review process. At any rate this is a problem that the Deputy Editors get to deal with in the first critical months of the journal’s’ launch.

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    brayden king

    May 8, 2013 at 2:44 pm

  21. Brayden brings up a great point here that I want to emphasize. In a field with little scholarly consensus about what constitutes good scholarship (as he points out), who is going to invite themselves to the inevitable post-publication flame war? An ABD most likely won’t do this, especially considering that this journal has not really established itself prestige wise (at least not yet). And a senior scholar? Why bother. Who is going to subject themselves to a post-publication flame war to be in a journal that has not established itself yet?

    Now, of course, one response is to say “what flame war?” But, I think it’s best to be prepared for such events, unless one reviews responses to articles with almost as much rigor as one reviews articles in the first place.

    Like

    DeniseChad

    May 8, 2013 at 4:20 pm

  22. @Brayden,
    The public forum idea sounds really great, but perhaps because I am PhD student and not faculty I see the opposite problem. I couldn’t imagine critiquing the work of a senior scholar from a prestigious institution in a public forum for all of the sociology world to see, even if their paper suffered from a serious flaw.From my perspective, this sounds like career suicide.
    Alternatively, I could see people really piling on a grad student or even faculty from a less-prestigious institution.
    As another alternative, I could see a situation in which most articles go without comment and a few controversial of novel ones attract all sorts of commentary.

    Overall I think this is a step in the right direction. For a while I’ve been saying that for sociology to more fully embrace open access, online journals we need some senior scholars from prestigious institutions to start a new journal and get their peers to submit.

    Like

    Silly Wabbit

    May 8, 2013 at 4:53 pm

  23. You guys read the webpage, right? It says in multiple places: “To encourage productive exchanges, Sociological Science will moderate commentary.” I don’t know why you imagine a “flame war.”

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    Jenn Lena

    May 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm

  24. I’m very positive about Sociological Science. I would bet that it will succeed but I’ll be surprised if the article forums take off. May I remind everyone that there already is an official discussion forum for ASR?
    http://members.asanet.org/Forums/view_forum.php?id=59

    Are there any examples of journals that run successful article forums? It would be interesting to see how something like that could work.

    Like

    neal caren

    May 8, 2013 at 5:42 pm

  25. Of course I read web pages (snark noted). In fact, I included this caveat in my original post: I think it’s best to be prepared for such events, *unless one reviews responses to articles with almost as much rigor as one reviews articles in the first place* As a human being who has been on the internet, however, please excuse my skepticism about moderators to control public comments from getting somewhat out of hand. In any case, as I said in my original post, if the moderation of comments is rigorous, hopefully flame wars will be avoided.

    Like

    DeniseChad

    May 8, 2013 at 6:04 pm

  26. Surely post-publication flame wars are a feature, not a bug.

    Like

    Kieran Healy

    May 8, 2013 at 6:28 pm

  27. @neal Wow, ASA forums. I didn’t realize they were still online. Interesting example of an online experiment that never really took off. There is probably more activity on orgtheory or scatterplot in a typical week than the best year(s) at the ASA forums.

    Like

    Conrad Hackett

    May 8, 2013 at 6:38 pm

  28. I hope everyone guessed that I was making a joke about the inevitability of a “flame war” in my “flame war” comment above.

    @DeniseChad: I see SO MUCH sunlight between “comment moderation” (which means, I’d guess, the website won’t post comments for public view until an editor has read and approved them) and reviewing “responses to articles with almost as much rigor as one reviews articles in the first place.” Maybe we’re talking past each other, and you’re placing a lot of weight on the “almost” in “almost as much rigor.” If so, I agree.

    @Kieran: Is it a feature, not a bug? Are they inevitable on this medium? Lots of personal attacks and provocations going on over at the American Girl Fan website? Or is it the culture of journal web fora? The ASR website suggests the opposite… Or is it just that you, like me, feel the comments threads on a few sociological blogs have swollen with repetitive, personal in-fighting among a few community members?

    Like

    Jenn Lena

    May 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

  29. Just to be clear … Obviously, a world where Sociological Science publications were closely tied to typically angry, stupid, or troll-filled discussions right there on the journal website would be bad. Of course no-one wants that sort of thing. On the other hand, a world where Sociological Science publications are associated with ongoing debate and argument—sometimes taking the form of new papers in the journal, sometimes editorially-overseen commentary, sometimes general discussion out in the world, but with easy access to the original article—well, that’s obviously a good thing, even if not every article is a classic or every reply decisive or every online comment a gem. That’s all I meant.

    Somewhat relatedly:

    > I couldn’t imagine critiquing the work of a senior scholar from a
    > prestigious institution in a public forum for all of the sociology
    > world to see, even if their paper suffered from a serious flaw

    I sincerely hope this isn’t generally true.

    Like

    Kieran Healy

    May 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

  30. Agreeing with Jenn (I think), there has to be a middle-ground between fully peer-reviewed comments — which are risky to put together because if it gets rejected there’s no secondary outlet — and something like, well, blog comments (moderated or not). Some science journals have a “letters to the editor” feature that is somewhat like this. Andrew Gelman has a recent post that talks about issues with the lack of opportunities for serious commentary on articles that might move debates forward.

    Like

    jeremy

    May 8, 2013 at 7:49 pm

  31. I think the journal is going to fill an important niche in sociology.

    I hope it will do much more than just fill a niche. I think the current journal system as basically irreparably broken and I see this as a compelling solution the part of the problem (the flagship journals) that aren’t being solved by the mega-journals (e.g., PLOS ONE, SAGE Open).

    I had my first PLOS ONE submission accepted this week and I have to say that experience has been just wonderful. For work that is not headed to a flagship journal, it’s hard to think about putting up with the deal that typical journals offer in a world where PLOS ONE doesn’t jerk you around, releases your stuff freely, and where you end up with an impact factor higher than even many of the best social science venues.

    And if it is heading for a flagship journal, Sociological Science is looking pretty appealing right now.

    Like

    Benjamin Mako Hill

    May 11, 2013 at 12:47 am

  32. i dont know why everyone is railing against selectivity –what might needed is refining the criteria for acceptance, such as what counts as scientific evidence in sociology rather than whose favorite cookie a reviewer wants an author to push. Publishing lots and lots of articles with a low quality bar is hardly going to fix anything (other than our egos maybe)

    Like

    anon

    May 11, 2013 at 4:02 am


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