announcing socarxiv: the open-access repository for social science

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If you are a social scientist who supports open access, please take five minutes to read this post, follow the instructions below, and help us launch SocArXiv, the new open repository for social science now being rolled out.

Almost all academics are frustrated by the fact that so much research is behind a paywall. Even other researchers are often stymied by paywalls when working at home, or simply because their libraries don’t subscribe to all the journals. That problems in only amplified for journalists and the public.

One workaround to this problem is posting preprints — prepublication versions of papers, whether early drafts or final but uncopyedited versions of accepted articles. While policies vary by journal, the vast majority allow this in some form. This allows you to get your own research out to as wide an audience as possible, often long before the published version is available.

But where do you put preprints? Some people post them to a personal website or a university open repository. But increasingly people are using commercial sites — particularly, though certainly not exclusively, (See, for example, this orgtheory comment thread from earlier in the week.)

Sites like Academia have real problems, though, when it comes to open access. Other disciplines have open access preprint servers. Most notably, math, physics, computer science and related fields use arXiv, an online repository that’s been in existence for 25 years and includes over a million papers.

The social sciences have seemed, if anything, to be moving in the opposite direction. SSRN, for example, was recently purchased by Elsevier, to the dismay of many observers.

We need an alternative. (Here’s my spiel on why.) And now we have one. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Philip Cohen, who has forged an alliance with the Open Science Framework, and a terrific steering committee (if I do say so myself), SocArXiv is on its way. It will be a simple method for getting your work out there without putting it behind either a paywall or placing it in the hands of a company that wants to make money off of it, not increase access to it.

The full rollout will be happening very soon. But in the meanwhile, you can already start depositing papers. Yesterday a temporary deposit site went up. It’s incredibly simple to use. You send an email to from your primary email. The title of the email is your paper title. The text of the email is your abstract. You attach your preprint (as a pdf, Word file, whatever). You hit send.

That’s it. Rinse and repeat. If you want, add some tags to your paper to make it easier to find. When the full site is running, all the deposited papers will roll directly into SocArXiv.

The framework is very robust, and there are a lot of other possibilities. You can also post code, data, and other kinds of files, and commenting options and much more will be coming in the near future.

What we need right now, though, is for people to start adding papers.

If you are a social scientist who supports open access, this is what you can do.

  1. Take five minutes. Go to this link. Email a paper to the deposit site. It really is that easy.
  2. Spread the word about SocArXiv to your social networks. Ask them to upload a paper.

The institutional support is there, the personal commitment is there, but what will make this take off is a critical mass of participants.

Lots of us want to see something like this work. The moment is right — help make open access a reality in social science.

Written by epopp

July 14, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Posted in uncategorized

understanding the next steps for black lives matter

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As a scholarly observer of social movements and a person who thinks that African Americans are mistreated by the criminal justice system, I have been very interested in what Black Lives Matter will do in the days and months to follow. The shootings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling highlight multiple problems – police officers with bad records on the beat, racial violence, and the over policing of society. The consequent shooting at the Dallas rally, which resulted in five more victims, show us that people can exploit a genuine effort to reform society in order to inflict more violence on others.

These horrid events are part of a larger pattern that Black Lives Matters protests yet there is a rare window of opportunity here. Once the media has shifted attention away from the violence, Black Lives Matter has a chance to broaden its coalition and extend its impact. Some like, New York Times writers Michael Barbaro and Yamiche Alcindor, conclude that the Dallas shooting undermined the positive attention the movement received after the Sterling and Castile deaths.

The opposite is true. Black Lives Matter has a chance to emphasize that it is above violence and that justice is truly its major goal. In the social sciences, we call this the “radical flank effect” – a movement may gain prominence when contrasted with a radical or violent manifestation of the movement. At this moment, a lot of people will want a voice that can focus on the basic injustices in the criminal justice system and maintain a distance from the most virulent forms of nationalism.

As a movement firmly rooted in the left, Black Lives Matter has some challenges.It rightfully celebrates Blackness, but that same strength might pose problems if the movement needs a White majority to reform police policy. Another challenge is the focus of the message. Many, such as myself, see Black Lives as a reasonable response to violent police. Yet, that message is bundled with others such as being queer friendly and celebrating the global Black community. I affirm many of these values while noting that external audiences may not. Perhaps a decentralized structure may circumvent this issue. Each local chapter can develop its own indigenous solutions to police relations and thus not have to balance these different needs.

Maybe the most profound decision that Black Lives faces is whether it wants to be full fledged national movement aimed at political reform, like the NAACP in the 1950s or the SCLC in the 1960s, or whether it wants to be more of a community oriented organization like the Black Panthers of the late 1960s. The official Black Lives website quotes Huey Newton, among others, which suggests that the movement aspires to both functions. If that is a correct assessment, then police reform is an anchoring point for a more thorough discussion of Black lives in a larger White society. It may be the case that this is enough to resolve the proximate issue of deaths at the hands of police, but it may be the case that a more thorough effort to build community is not the most appropriate tool for policy change.

I suspect that ten or twenty years from now, observers will see this period as a pivot point for Black Lives. After three years of emergence, Black Lives has become the face of police reform, but one rooted in the Black community and one rooted in cultural politics. The question is whether this is enough to affect the policy problems that generated the movement or whether Black Lives Matter will be an intermediary phenomenon leading to a broader de-policing of sciety.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street 

Written by fabiorojas

July 13, 2016 at 12:01 am

state of the field article on field theory in non-profit organizations, by Emily Barman, now available

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We’re at the halfway mark in July.  Looking for summer reading that covers the latest sociological theories in non-profit research?  Emily Barman has a “state of the field” article on the use of field theory in the non-profit organizations literature in the Organizations and Work section of Sociology Compass.

Here’s the abstract for her article “Varieties of Field Theory and the Sociology of the Non-profit Sector:”


This paper reviews the use of field theory in the sociological study of the non-profit sector. The review first shows how field theory, as a conceptual framework to explain social action, provides a valuable sociological counterweight to prevailing economic and psychological orientations in the interdisciplinary scholarship on the non-profit sector. However, despite its certain shared assumptions, field theory in sociology encompasses three distinct, albeit interrelated, approaches: the Bourdieusian, New Institutionalist, and Strategic Action Fields perspectives. I comparatively outline the key analytical assumptions and causal claims of each version of field theory, whether and how it recognizes the specificity of the non-profit sector and then delineate its application by sociologists to the non-profit sector. I show how scholars’ employment of each articulation of field theory to study non-profit activity has been influenced by pre-existing scholarly assumptions and normative claims about this third space. The article concludes by summarizing the use of these varieties of field theory in the sociology of the non-profit sector and by identifying future directions in this line of research.

Also, Emily has a new book available, titled Caring Capitalism: The Meaning and Measure of Social Value (2016, Cambridge University Press)!  Check out the book blurb here.

Written by katherinechen

July 11, 2016 at 4:49 pm

w.e.b. dubois’ illustrations of black social science data

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The website Hyperallergic has a nice article on the drawings that DuBois’ did visualizing some of his data. For a 1900 exhibition, DuBois made, by hand, these interesting visualizations. Tufte, eat yer heart out!

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

July 11, 2016 at 12:01 am

lauren newton w/reeds, 2015

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50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

July 10, 2016 at 12:01 am

Posted in art, fabio, uncategorized

thank you, uber

with 3 comments

Some folks find ride sharing services like Uber to be a threat. Here’s my view:

  • Uber doesn’t drive past me to pick up other customers.
  • Every time I call them, they show up.
  • They take all credit cards.
  • They give me a receipt for the exact amount.
  • I have never been yelled at by an Uber driver.

Not a bad deal, if you ask me.

50+ chapters of grad skool advice goodness: Grad Skool Rulz ($2!!!!)/From Black Power/Party in the Street

Written by fabiorojas

July 8, 2016 at 12:01 am

on non-academic writing, as well as the benefits of jargon and time

I’ve been thinking a lot about academics who do non-academic writing.  One of my favorites is Molly Worthen, who writes regularly for The New York Times.  I talked to her about her process, and she said part of how she swings it is by basically focusing on academic books and then articles for the popular press.  She doesn’t really do that many book chapters or peer-reviewed articles.  That’s a bit easier to pull off as a historian, though there are certainly sociologists (and sociology departments) that focus on books as well, so it’s by no means an impossible model for sociologists to imitate.

I recently wrote an article for Slate, and it was a lot of fun. But it had me thinking about the difference between academic writing, blogs, and writing for a place like Slate.  Some of the feedback I got on the piece sort of proved my point about scientism. The comments about how science is all we will ever need made me wish I could have mentioned  Charles Taylor’s concept of a subtraction story in the piece (it was in my first draft).  But a lot of the rest of the feedback was quite helpful both on the substance of my argument and on its rhetorical moves.  I like the piece, but it obviously could have been better in a variety of ways.

However, this isn’t a post about my piece.  Rather, it’s a post about how, had I written the piece for an academic audience, I would have had the chance to present it at a few conferences or workshops, get ideas from colleagues, and then get the stern admonitions of anonymous reviewers.  I also could have assumed a lot of previous knowledge that I just can’t assume when I’m writing for a popular audience, even an audience like Slate’s (or, for Molly, the New York Times), where you can assume a pretty educated readership.  There’s also the question of speed.  It’s pretty frustrating how long academic publishing can take, but it can also help you to work out a lot of the kinks in an argument.

But this has me thinking: how is this any different from blogs?  And I think a big piece of it is that blogs are less like an article for a broader public and much more like a paper-in-progress presentation, especially for blogs like Org Theory and Scatterplot that have a very specific readership.  It’s a way to float or work out an idea that might well be less formed than an article in a popular website, magazine, or newspaper would have to be, yet the blogger still gets the benefit of being able to speak in a shorthand that wouldn’t be possible in those venues.

It also had me thinking of Johann Neem’s piece on the virtue of academic writing as an end in itself, which came out a while ago but is worth seeing if you haven’t seen it:

Yet there is a risk when we mistakenly assume that public and scholarly writing are the same thing — that one is good and clear and the other is needlessly complex. Critics often blame academics for overusing verbiage that is meaningless to the general public. But jargon and complexity have their place. One need only ask whether theoretical physicists would have been able to achieve their insights if each of them had to write for lay readers like me instead of for each other. Of course not.

There is jargon, and then there is jargon. In my own field of history, shared references to specific scholars, concepts, or schools of historiography can open up worlds of meaning economically. It allows us to focus on our shared task: scholarly inquiry.

Do scholars sometimes hide behind jargon? Of course. Can jargon mask emptiness? Yes. Do scholars sometimes use jargon when more accessible language is available? No doubt. Does jargon primarily serve the needs of tenure and promotion? Sometimes. Should academics write as clearly as they can? Yes. There is good academic writing and bad, just as there is good public writing and bad. But can we do away with jargon? Not if by jargon we mean scholarship that uninitiated readers simply cannot understand. Indeed, to do so would make it impossible for philosophy to achieve its goals.


Written by jeffguhin

July 7, 2016 at 5:28 pm

Posted in academia

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