another step forward for open science

The esteemed journal Nature has issued new guidelines about code availability. Includes:

Nature and the Nature journals have decided that, given the diversity of practices in the disciplines we cover, we cannot insist on sharing computer code in all cases. But we can go further than we have in the past, by at least indicating when code is available. Accordingly, our policy now mandates that when code is central to reaching a paper’s conclusions, we require a statement describing whether that code is available and setting out any restrictions on accessibility. Editors will insist on availability where they consider it appropriate: any practical issues preventing code sharing will be evaluated by the editors, who reserve the right to decline a paper if important code is unavailable. Moreover, we will provide a dedicated section in articles in which any information on computer code can be placed.

geeks at war!


Yesterday Eszter got me started playing Ingress, which to paraphrase this good introduction, is sort of like Foursquare meets geocaching meets a sci-fi version of the Cold War.  The map above shows the current battle between the two teams: the Resistance (blue) vs. the Enlightened (green).  Also, as you can see, the places where war is afoot versus those where it is not also provides a good proxy for global digital inequality.

(If you do check it out, might I suggest Team Green?  Sure, “resistance” might sound more plucky, but it’s really all about keeping the world the way it is, whereas enlightenment is about making the world better.  Or at least that’s the lofty rationale we’re using to try to get you to join our team.)

ello is now a public benefit corporation

As part of our continuing discussion over the ethics of Facebook’s emotional manipulation study, Philip Cohen advanced the idea that we should simply declare FB a public utility and regulate it as such:

But Facebook is too big, and they own irreplaceable archives of hundreds of millions of people’s stuff. I figure just nationalize it or regulate it as a public utility – call it critical infrastructure. Then let private companies out-innovate boring if they want to and win people away.

This notion struck me as a bit extreme, but provocative in just the right way. What kind of a service is a massive social network and in whose interests should it be run? We need better answers to that question.

Enter Continue reading


Don’t these badges look nifty? You can display them girl-scout style at the top of your article if it fulfills various open science practices. Should quant sociology have something like this? (Nothing against my qual-pals, just harder to see how it would work.)

asa renewal – now with social media

Look! When you renew your ASA membership, there are now fields for you to enter your Twitter, handle, blog address, or other social media info.

asa member

This is something that we requested on the Task Force on Social Media (now the Task Force on Engaging Sociology) that was begun by President Annette Lareau last year to improve the ASA’s engagement with social media. If you input your Twitter handle here, for example, the ASA can include the info on our nametags at the conference, create a list of sociologists’ blogs, etc.

It is all optional, of course.

data disclosure checklist

Happened across the data disclosure checklist required by Management Science. So simple!

Indicate (e.g., by underlining) “Yes” or “No”:

Yes No - This manuscript includes analysis of data (e.g., field data, simulated data, experimental data, primary data, secondary data, public data, private data, etc.).

Yes No - If our manuscript is accepted we will provide the journal with our data so that it can be posted on the journal’s website. To promote additional research and to increase the credibility of a paper’s findings, data disclosure is encouraged but not required.

Yes No - A portion of our data cannot be disclosed due to a non-disclosure agreement or similar limitations on disclosure. If “Yes,” briefly explain which data cannot be disclosed and why:

For papers that report experimental data, please answer the following:

Yes No - We report how we determined our sample sizes, all data exclusions (if any), all manipulations (for experimental work), and all measures collected.

reflexive anti-geneticism

This is my contribution to the ongoing symposium on genetics,race, and sociological theory as well as its twin on that other blog. A quick disclaimer: I was in graduate school with J. Shiao, lead author of the paper being discussed, and we talk occasionally at conferences.

My view of the original paper is that its contribution is real but quite modest in the scheme of theory. The best way to read it is as a social-constructionist “friendly amendment” to constructivism’s tacit, yet stubborn, insistence that there is no biological basis for racial categorization. Genetic information can be used “to distinguish race/ethnicity from the existence of genetic clusters” (emphasis mine). Shiao et al. suggest that constructivist approaches to race need not cling to a strong no-genetic-clustering claim in order to maintain most of the findings of constructivism (“In sum, relatively little of the empirical explanations made by sociologists of race/ethnicity require the claim of biological nonreality traditionally associated with racial constructionism.”). In short, race is a

social reality that is historical, processual, stratified, and analytically multilevel but that is also entangled with biological inputs inherited from the geographic distribution of humans in genetic watersheds over the past 50,000 years.

While I’m no fan of genetic essentialism, I don’t think that’s what’s actually going on in the Shiao et al. article, and overall I find the critiques in the special issue quite disappointing because by and large they respond reflexively to something else instead of engaging the article’s actual contents. I actually think the most important criticism of Shiao et al. is that it’s not really all that important of a finding: the idea that minor, generally meaningless, and ancient genetic variations produce phenotypes that then become inputs to the social construction of race and ethnicity is a minor correction to social constructionism. It becomes important enough for an article in ST because of the sheer symbolic importance of race and the reflexive anti-geneticism in the field. And the character of much of the responses provide further evidence that the objections are to the symbolic affront of the article instead of to its content.

Continue reading

granovetter rejection!

You may think I’m talking about the Nobel. But I’m not. Here is the 1969 rejection letter and reviews of an early version of Granovetter’s “the strength of weak ties” paper. It was rejected by ASR.

I asked Mark if I could share this; he agreed. He also wrote, “I’d note also that this rejection illustrates the importance of framing. I framed the original draft, which I wrote in grad school, as a treatment of “alienation”, more or less in response to the ideas of Louis Wirth and others that the city was an “alienating” place. The editor therefore sent the paper to reviewers who seemed to be European-oriented alienation theorists, who rightly saw that I was not talking about alienation as Marx did, but failed to imagine that there might be any other valid way to talk about it, as you can see from their comments. When I later revised the paper for AJS, I pulled all references to alienation out, and it obviously fared much better.”

I figured many of you would find it interesting — seeing the early reviews of a classic. It’s also slightly heartening. Even our discipline’s most cited papers have been rejected! Perhaps you have a classic in your drawer you should dust off?

symposium on the genetics of race in sociological theory

The most recent issue of Sociological Theory contains a four part symposium on the genetics of race. More specifically, three of the pieces are responses to a 2012 article in ST by Shiao et al., The Genomic Challenge to the Social Construction of Race, and the last is a reply by Shiao. The debate is an important one for both sociology and the broader public. Every advance in biology and genetics seems to trigger a new round of scientists, and social scientists, trying to justify widely-held beliefs about race in essentialist terms. Shiao et al. offer a new, sophisticated argument in a very long tradition.

Fortunately, sociology – especially sociology informed by the science studies (STS) tradition – is well-equipped to engage with the guts of the genetics underlying Shiao et al’s claims. Continue reading

on sockpuppetry

Diederik Stapel, responsible for something like 50-some retracted articles due to academic fraud, was apparently commenting on stories about him on Retraction Watch using a pseudonym. I thought his reply was interesting:

I thought that in an internet environment where many people are writing about me (a real person) using nicknames it is okay to also write about me (a real person) using a nickname. I have learned that apparently that was —in this particular case— a misjudgment. I think did not dare to use my real name (and I still wonder why). I feel that when it concerns person-to-person communication, the “in vivo” format is to be preferred over and above a blog where some people use their real name and some do not. In the future, I will use my real name. I have learned that and I understand that I –for one– am not somebody who can use a nickname where others can.

big data hubris

A not-very-important, yet instructive, series of events on Friday offers a cautionary tale about the allure of big data and the fashionable mistrust of local knowledge.

Continue reading

the professor is in

Since I have found tiny tidbits from the blogs to be helpful over the years, I thought that I would pass along one myself that has been helpful in my life as a professor (it is still weird writing that statement): consider using online booking for office hours. I have seen two benefits from doing this. First, I can see when students are coming and, in the infrequent but not unusual situation of finding common meeting times with colleagues for committee-type meetings, I feel more free to agree to meet during office hours when I can see that no students are signed up to meet. Second, it helps the students since they do not have to wait outside the office until I finish with another student. They can sign up for a time and I can meet with them at that time.

I had used Google Appointment Slots but, alas, like Reader, Google killed them. Now I use the website to schedule my appointments. You can link it to your Google Calendar and in doing so, it has a pretty slick feature that you can designate a type of meeting in your Google Calendar that will look for to designate your availability (mine is, appropriately enough, “Office Hours”).

It’s worked for me and it might be worth a try.

ifcomp 2014

The 20th Annual Interactive Fiction Competition has begun, with 42 entries that pursue the unlikely premise of a prose-oriented videogame. Not sure I’ll actually get the chance to play any, but the preview blurbs are fun to read. I can’t decide if my favorite is:

Alec Baldwin gets what Alec Baldwin wants, and when he wants six gallons for a Milk Party, you better believe he’s getting six gallons. Includes 3 Endings.


Sigmund’s Quest is an homage to the classic point-and-click adventure games that inspired me so much as a child. It tells the first part of the story of the Völsunga saga, a Norse myth similar to King Arthur in some ways, albeit with more incest and werewolves.

Although probably the one that piqued my interest in terms of something I might check out was:

There is a house.
There is a room in the house.
There is a door in the room. The door is locked.
Some people are in the room.
Some people are transparent.


The Weather Channel is naming winter storms, and despite the fact that science has shown that storms are vastly more lethal when named after women than men, they are brazenly going ahead with naming some for women.  I hope the prospect sends a mysterious icy shiver up the spine of all the counterfactual people who will freeze to death because of this choice.

In any event, apparently “W” is to be decided by a reader poll, and one of the options is the super-manly “Wolf”, against opponents that include the peculiar “Wilda” and the milquetoasty “Warren”.  Who knows how many will perish if Wolf doesn’t win? Vote now.

[Sorry to breach the Scatterplot house rule about not using caps in titles, but I figured it was okay since lives are at stake.]

the official asa blog is launched

The ASA Council received an email today from President Paula England, who announces the launch of a new blog for ASA members: Speak for Sociology. England writes:

I invite ASA members to post comments on this new blog. It is a place where members can comment on ASA issues, and on public issues of particular interest to sociologists.

Members may want to use this space to talk about public sociology. We can discuss how to engage sociologists in public debates and get their voices heard. We can discuss the pros and cons of such engagement, including when ASA should or shouldn’t take a stand on public issues. And we can debate or brainstorm about ASA’s internal policies.

We are requiring those who post to provide their name, hoping that this encourages accuracy and civility, and discourages personal attacks.

Please initiate or join in discussions here!

Many of us, myself included, have been eager for ASA leadership to participate in our online conversations, and I think this is a great day for sociology.


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