Over the weekend I was at a workshop on journal practices convened by the editor-in-chief of Science and sponsored by the Center for Open Science in Virginia.* The larger cause of Open Science is seeking for greater transparency in research practice, something which anybody who knows me knows I think is badly needed. One idea that was raised at the meeting that I had never heard of before was “active citation.” Active citation is not about transparency in research practice, but greater accountability for our use of the work of others in making the arguments of a paper.
The basic premise of active citation is that when you cite a source, you need to indicate how it is that the source says what you say it says.
You can do this by either linking to the specific part of the text, or by linking to a more general part of the text and offering a short supplemental-materials-like explanation of your interpretation.
I’m not sure I buy this as a good idea for sociology in general–already I believe that sociology journals push authors into a scientifically unhealthy ratio of time-spent-crafting-arguments to time-spent-doing-actual-empirical-research. At the same time, I do think it probably would serve to make papers more carefully argued and ultimately better.
* Only sociologist there. We need to step up our game.