SocArXiv launched

Michael Oman-Reagan just reminded me about an important open access project that’s been in the works for a while now: SocArXiv (thanks @OmanReagan!).

I agree with Michael about the potential of this repository. And if your work is currently uploaded on a site like Academia.edu, now may be the time to migrate. If you haven’t heard about it, SocArXiv is a green open access digital repository that runs on the Open Science Framework. I wrote about this project back in September here on Savage Minds. Matt Thompson wrote about the wider arXiv framework in May 2016. When I first wrote about this at the end of last year, the temporary version was online. The full beta version went online in December, and it looks great. Here’s part of the launch announcement:

SocArXiv, the open access, open source archive of social science, is officially launching in beta version today. Created in partnership with the Center for Open Science, SocArXiv provides a free, noncommercial service for rapid sharing of academic papers; it is built on the Open Science Framework, a platform for researchers to upload data and code as well as research results.

By uploading working papers and preprints of their articles to SocArXiv, social scientists can now make their work immediately and permanently available to other researchers and the public, and discoverable via search engines. This alleviates the frustration of slow times to publication and sidesteps paywalls that limit the audience for academic research. Since SocArXiv is a not-for-profit alternative to existing commercial platforms, researchers can also be assured that they are sharing their research in an environment where access, not profit, will remain at the heart of the mission.

Since development was first announced in July, researchers have deposited more than 600 papers, downloaded over 10,000 times, in anticipation of SocArXiv’s launch. SocArXiv anticipates rapid growth in that number in the coming year as it establishes a reputation as the fully open repository for sociology and social science research.

Read the full announcement here. So, anthropologists and readers of Savage Minds, what do you think? Are you on board? Skeptical? Well, check it out and get back to me. Post your comments below!

Ryan Anderson is an environmental and economic anthropologist. His current research focuses on the social dynamics of coastal development and conservation in Baja California Sur, Mexico. He is currently a post-doctoral researcher in the department of anthropology at the University of Kentucky. You can reach him at ryan AT savageminds dot org or @anthropologia on twitter.

5 thoughts on “SocArXiv launched

  1. Michael, a question re policy and usage. Informal tracking of my own and friends’ usage on academia.edu, it seems that most of what we are uploading are not preprints or working papers but instead already published material, old articles and papers from our files that we want to make accessible to those who might be interested in them but lack convenient access to the dead-tree forms in which they were published. We are also using the sessions feature to discuss both old and new material. This could be a generational thing since most of us are nearer the end than the beginning of our career arcs. But however that may be a policy that excludes already published material and a platform that does not facilitate discussion seems to me unlikely to motivate us to move our submissions.

  2. I’ll second John’s impression, and confess that I may be experiencing the same generational phenomenon. I’d add another issue, though, that touches on John’s point: the cycles of research and publishing in anthropology. Physics benefited from quick dissemination of research results in part because those research and publishing cycles are short. My physician husband runs a lab that turns out scores of articles a year for the same reason. Anthropology? Not so much. We spend a year or two in the field. We take another year or two to write a dissertation. We spend months writing an article. There are short cycles in some of the applied/practicing anthropology areas, but most academic anthropology research and publishing seems as slow as a cricket match. Consequently, I applaud the emergence of opportunities such as SocArXiv, but don’t for a moment believe that instant availability of immediate research findings is going to be its major attraction. The primary value of such opportunities for some years now has been the expanded availability of professional writing without the pay wall, the cost of subscriptions, or the problem of libraries that cannot afford to carry most periodicals — in the context of the global expansion of anthropology.

  3. Hi! My name’s Dan and I’m on the SocArXiv team. I’m going to try to speak to some of your concerns from our perspective – but it may not be the case that SocArXiv is the right platform for all purposes (and specifically for yours). Responses below:

    “it seems that most of what we are uploading are not preprints or working papers but instead already published material, old articles and papers from our files that we want to make accessible to those who might be interested in them but lack convenient access to the dead-tree forms in which they were published”

    We would love to host all of these files. But depending on the journal you may not have the right to post them (to academia.edu or to SocArXiv). Depending on the journal, you likely have the right to post preprint versions of those old articles (this handy database can tell you the permissions policies for different journals: http://www.sherpa.ac.uk/romeo/index.php ).

    SocArXiv has a kind of dual mission: first, make papers accessible (in some version at least) to those who can’t get access to paywalled journals and second, speed up the circulation of work in progress. That first goal holds for papers published 50 years ago just as much as for papers published last week.

    “a policy that excludes already published material” – I’m not sure what policy you’re referring to. SocArXiv is a fantastic place for preprints of already published material. What you usually can’t do is post the final pdf, because usually you have signed away the right to do so. If you do have the rights – because the journal did not take them such as with open access journals – we’re delighted to have final published versions as well!

    “Anthropology? Not so much. We spend a year or two in the field. We take another year or two to write a dissertation. We spend months writing an article. There are short cycles in some of the applied/practicing anthropology areas, but most academic anthropology research and publishing seems as slow as a cricket match.”

    We agree that much social science publishing has a slow timeline, in part because so much of our research takes a long time! And nothing SocArXiv can or would do will change that. What it can change is the part after your quote – you take months writing an article and then submit it to a journal. You wait 9 months for a rejection. You submit to another journal. Wait 6 months for an R&R. You revise, resubmit, and wait another 6 months. Then you’re accepted! And the paper appears online and in print a mere 6-12 months later. With a relatively “fortunate” paper, that process can take a couple years. Posting the working paper version on SocArXiv can’t speed up your field work or your writing, but at least it can allow your paper to reach an audience while the traditional journal system chugs along slowly. Just because our research takes a long time doesn’t mean it has to take a long time for anyone to read the results of that research once it’s finished.

    “The primary value of such opportunities for some years now has been the expanded availability of professional writing without the pay wall, the cost of subscriptions, or the problem of libraries that cannot afford to carry most periodicals — in the context of the global expansion of anthropology.”

    We 100% agree that one of the most important services that SocArXiv can offer is expanded access. Whether that value is primary or secondary is less important to us than that we find a way to offer it – and that we do so through a system that’s non-profit, and run by academics and librarians on behalf of academics and libraries rather than a scammy for-profit.

    “a platform that does not facilitate discussion seems to me unlikely to motivate us to move our submissions”

    We would love to hear more about the kinds of features that would be useful to you in facilitating discussions! SocArXiv just launched, and it’s pretty bare bones at the moment. But we have plans for many more features, including the ability to create collections (for a conference, a department, a professional association, etc.) and even potentially peer-reviewed, open access journals. There are already commenting features on each page, but I agree that they are not especially robust. What kinds of discussions are you having on academia.edu? What kinds of discussion features would you like to see on SocArXiv?

  4. Dan, thank you very much for taking the time to reply at length. Let me take your question, what features would be useful “to you” and rephrase it to ask, what features would be useful “to anthropology.” I make two assumptions. First, as more and more people post pre-prints, the odds of any one of them actually being read declines. Second, as more and more people post, the task of selecting which articles to read becomes more difficult. Thus, I ask the question, what sorts of features would make it easier to identify “must-read” articles and thus increase the likelihood of articles being read. To the best of my limited knowledge, there are now two common approaches to addressing this problem. One requires curation, a.k.a., editorial curation, which requires a dedicated group of editors and reintroduces all of the usual problems of bias associated with dead-tree journals. The other is an algorithmic solution that identifies “trending” articles, assigning progressively higher scores the more often an article is read and broadcasts an announcement when a certain threshold is passed. The difficulty here is that setting a global threshold increases the likelihood of articles on topics currently of interest to only a few scholars being overshadowed. My tentative proposal is, then, a feature that combines search with trending thresholds. Thus, I could ask for high-scoring articles in a specific area, e.g., one of my own odd interests, Chinese ritual and quickly find the most cited articles. There would, moreover, be two important differences from conventional audit-culture citation indices. The citation weightings would exclude multiple citations by the same people, ruling out the formation of cliques whose members game high scores by frequently citing each other. Timing would also be considered, allowing me to distinguish, for example, articles that seemed exciting in 1991 from those now trending in 2017. (This would, among other things, open the way for interesting fine-grained research on intellectual trends, making it possible to distinguish enduring contributions from what we might call intellectual bubbles.)

    Hope this is helpful.

  5. Dan wrote: “What kinds of discussions are you having on academia.edu? What kinds of discussion features would you like to see on SocArXiv?”

    I can’t speak for John, but I have found the “Sessions” feature on Academia.edu to be super interesting and full of potential. I have only participated in a couple so far, but both have been great. Keith Hart has been using this feature a lot and the engagement and discussion have been excellent so far. Incorporating something like this into SocArXiv–for working papers and preprints–would be great.

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