liability insurance?

Someone asked me about liability insurance on research. The person is concerned about the risk of being sued for libel for research that makes a company look bad. The research is based entirely on publicly-available materials and truth would be the ultimate defense, but the company has a history of suing activists as a strategy for responding to protests about their actions and a lawsuit can destroy you, even if you ultimately win. A collaborator on the project is a lawyer, which I suppose is partly why the subject came up.

I’d never heard of such a thing. Turns out you can purchase such a liability policy. Educator policies protecting you against the risk of litigation by students and policies for clinical psychologists protecting both their treatment and research show up readily in Internet searches. You can find a few blog posts out there about how to protect yourself against libel suits when you study people or organizations.

So, does anybody else out there know about this? Is this a coming thing? Or is it a scam?

too many reviewers

I freaked out recently when, after reviewing an article, I received a packet of FIVE (5!!!)  reviews on the same article. I chewed out the editors for wasting my time and told them I would never review for their journal again. After an exchange (in which I got a little less testy), I told them I’d post my concerns to scatterplot and open a discussion on the topic. Although five was over the top and freaked me out, it has become pretty common now for me as a reviewer to get a packet with four reviews. No wonder we regular reviewers are feeling under the gun. The old calculation of two or even three reviews per article has gone by the wayside. The pressure for fast turnaround and the high turn-down or non-response rate among potential reviewers has led editors to send out articles to extra reviewers in the hopes of ending up with at least the minimum two or three.

But this is a death spiral. As a frequently-sought reviewer I get at least four requests a month, sometimes as many as eight, and I used to get more before I got so crabby.  When I was young and eager, I was reviewing an article a week [and thus, by the way, having a huge influence on my specialty area], and I know some people who are keeping that pace. But at some point you burn out and say “no more.” I, like all other frequently-sought reviewers I know, turn down outright the requests from journals I don’t know for articles that sound boring, and then save up the other requests and once a month pick which articles I want to review. So the interesting-sounding articles from good journals get too many reviewers, while the boring-sounding articles from no-name journals get none. If journal editors respond to the non-response by reviewers to boring-sounding articles by sending out even more reviewer requests per article, our mailboxes will be flooded even more and the non-response rate and delayed-response rate by reviewers will go up even more. Senior scholars are asked to review six to eight (or more?) articles per month. You have to say no to most of the requests.

And then we have the totally out of hand R&R problem. Continue reading “too many reviewers”

sociology clusters, 1900-2010

As a follow up to my look at contemporary sociology, I thought I would look at where we’ve been.

I grabbed all the available articles published in the four major general interest sociology journals: AJS (starting in 1900), ASR (starting in 1920 ), Social Forces (starting in 1922) and Social Problems (starting in 1956). I used my RefCliq program to analyze clusters of citations by decade.

Below, I’ve included the major clusters and central author. If you click on the decade, you can see the full reports. I’ve would say the results are strongly correlated with trends in elite sociology, but with a couple of caveats. In addition to problems with how references are reported and recorded, works/areas that span clusters are often misplaced. This problem is likely made worse studying this set of journals, which often have editors that specifically ask that articles, “speak more widely to different areas of the discipline.” Also, articles from the first thirty years of sociology don’t really look like modern articles, so I’m not sure what the reference analysis tells us. That said, I think it’s a quick and easy way to look at major trends in our field. Continue reading “sociology clusters, 1900-2010”

bloggerly beverage at asa nyc ftw

The ASA is catching up with the times. There is WiFi in all the meeting rooms. They are webcasting the plenaries. The organization even announced the twitter hashtag for the meetings (#asa13 – four digit years are so Y2K). It might seem like things are changing too fast for you (if so, you can take a course from The HUB). But there is one thing you can always count on to remain steadfast in these tumultuous times: the bloggers will drink together at the ASA.

Please join us at

5pm on Sunday, August 11

for a bloggerly beverage at

Lillie’s Victorian Establishment

249 W 49th St

It will be so wonderful to see you there. As always, all blog participants-writers and readers, commenters and lurkers-are most welcome. Rumors to the contrary aside, we also like twitterers and tumblrrs. Come on by!

We encourage faculty to buy at least one drink for a thirsty student, who will someday impress her future colleagues: “I recommend Citizen Speak for your work on democratic participation.” “Oh, yes, Andy bought me an appletini in New York that time. What a nice guy.”

I hope you all can make it.