three ways you can open up your asa section awards

Philip Cohen has a post up on his blog about how we can use ASA paper awards to push sociology towards open access, and specifically towards SocArXiv. Go read it to find out more about the initiative – and specifically, to find good sample award text that your section could easily modify and implement. The original SocArXiv announcement is here, including details on how SocArXiv will provide up to $400 towards an award winner’s travel if your section opens up the award. In addition to encouraging every section to seriously consider this proposal, I want to suggest two alternative ways that sections can promote open access if, for some reason, the SocArXiv plan is not acceptable.

1. SocArXiv Submission System: To make things easy, and to be eligible for the SocArXiv funds, the full SocArXiv proposal can be quickly implemented in the call for award submissions, and Philip has great sample text:

Submissions are made by posting the paper on SocArXiv and sending a link to the paper to the committee chair, Philip N. Cohen, at pnc@umd.edu. To submit your paper, go to SocArXiv.org, and click “Add a preprint.” If you don’t yet have an account, you will fill out a short form — it’s free, non-profit, and won’t spam you! For assistance, contact socarxiv@gmail.com or consult the FAQ page. Please indicate whether you would like your paper to be included in a public list of submissions (this will not affect your chances of winning). The winner will receive a plaque and travel reimbursement up to $400 to attend the 2018 Family Section reception at the ASA meetings.

2. Open Access Requirement: Suppose, for whatever reason, you don’t want to make SocArXiv your home for award submissions. You still have other options for promoting open access! You could adopt a provision similar to the ASA dissertation award rules: “To be eligible for the ASA Dissertation Award, candidates’ dissertations must be publicly available in Dissertation Abstracts International or a comparable outlet. Dissertations that are not available in this fashion will not be considered for the award.” Modifying it a bit, you could add to your call for submissions:

To be eligible for the Section Award, candidates’ papers must be publicly available in SocArXiv or a comparable open access repository. Papers that are not available in this fashion will not be considered for the award.

The easiest implementation would be to check to make sure that the winning paper is available publicly, and to require authors to make it available before finalizing the award.

3. Open Access Encouragement: Finally, if you’re unwilling to require open access, you can at least encourage it. Work in Progress does this in its style guide, encouraging authors to link open access versions of the paper their post is based on: “Since WIP is a public sociology blog, we encourage authors to make a non-paywalled version of their paper accessible to readers. If your paper is not already available somewhere on the internet, we recommend uploading a preprint of the published article to SocArXiv, an open access repository for working papers and pre-publication versions of published papers.” A slightly modified prompt – as part of the call for submissions, the form response to submissions, or the notification to award winners, could look like this:

We encourage authors to make a non-paywalled version of their paper accessible to readers. If your paper is not already available somewhere on the internet, we recommend uploading a preprint of the published article to SocArXiv, an open access repository for working papers and pre-publication versions of published papers.

This encouragement would require no change in by-laws or even the call for submissions, but could still serve as a nice nudge towards open access.

If you have any questions about SocArXiv or the award proposal, let me know! Our steering committee is happy to come answer questions at your section council or business meeting.

Author: Dan Hirschman

I am a sociologist interested in the use of numbers in organizations, markets, and policy. For more info, see here.

7 thoughts on “three ways you can open up your asa section awards”

  1. I disagree that we should require award winners to post their work on the archive that the Chair of our section has started. If nothing else, that seems an inappropriate insider requirement. Beyond that, while open archives have the right to exist, I personally do not support the total de-regulation aspect of research. Should researchers be required to know what is in every open archive repository as well as research that has been at least certified as of some quality by peer review? Every senior thesis could be posted, every paper that received a C in a first year ethics class. Researchers should not have the extra burden of being responsible for knowing literature that has not been peer reviewed.

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    1. One of the reasons I wrote this post was to give options to sections that support the spirit of open access, but aren’t comfortable singling out a single repository. Do you think option 2, modeled after the ASA dissertation award, solves your “insider requirement” concern? While SocArXiv obviously has some reasons to want to encourage use of that site in particular (and thus has built that requirement into its offer of financial support), it’s more important to me that sociologists get in the habit of making their work more accessible and there are lots of ways to do that.

      Also, our claim is not that every paper ever written should be posted. As the image in the post asserts, we think a good standard right now is that if you’re willing to submit it to an award committee, you should be willing to submit it to a broader public. I have drafts in progress that I haven’t posted on SocArXiv or anywhere else – they’re not ready. But once I’m ready to submit the paper to a journal or a section award, I’m ready to have a broader set of scholars review my work.

      As to your question, “Should researchers be required to know what is in every open archive repository as well as research that has been at least certified as of some quality by peer review?” No. Scholars aren’t even obligated to know every peer-reviewed article (it would be impossible). Making working papers accessible doesn’t alter the obligation or burden on scholars to keep up with the literature, it simply makes it possible for papers to circulate while they work their way through the often drawn out process of peer review and publication. Economics is a good model here. Their journals are just as slow as ours, but important papers are circulated widely for years before final publication. This allows errors to be spotted, but it also democratizes access to the cutting edge – you don’t have to know the authors or see an in-person talk to be able to access the research, should you deem it important to do so.

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  2. I’m realizing there are at least two issues intertwined here. One is open access. Some section awards go to papers that are already published and have already been peer reviewed. These papers are accessible, but may be gated so that either you or your institution has to pay for access. In this case, the request might be that a copy of the paper also be in a free repository where the general public, including academics in other countries and those who don’t have regular jobs as schools with good libraries, can see the paper.

    The second is work that has not been published yet. Prizes for unpublished work are almost always graduate student awards. I am inclined to believe that all section members ought to be able to read a paper that won a section award, especially if their dues paid for a cash award for the paper. Otherwise, how could their be any accountability for the award process? These papers are inevitably somewhere in the publication pipeline undergoing revision. I know of quite a few that fell into the R&R vortex for several years before they finally emerged in published form. In the meantime, nobody except a few committee members (awards committee but also search committees) would ever get to read the work. Even though there will likely be quite a few revisions between the submission for the award and the final publication, I still think making the paper that won the prize available for general access is good for the author and good for everyone else who, presumably, would benefit from reading the paper sooner rather than later.

    I am convinced that the advantages of putting your papers in a public repository while they are undergoing the peer review process outweigh the disadvantages, and I am convinced that the advantages to the growth of scientific knowledge of having everything out in public as quickly as it is produced outweigh the disadvantages.
    The cutting edge of every scientific field is the unpublished manuscript and the conference paper. If you only read the paper journals you are inevitably at least a couple of years out of date. This does not, of course, mean that every unpublished paper is worth the time it would take to read it. (Nor is every published paper worth the time.) But if I want to be on top of my field, I want to know what is going on now, not what was going on four or five years ago. If you want to know where the discipline is going, you want to be able to identify the good work being produced by young people. What better way is there than an open repository for papers on their way to publication?

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    1. Further reflection: sections also give book awards. I don’t think we are proposing requiring book authors to post open copies of their books. So I think the real issue is neither books nor articles already published in journals, but papers that have not been published yet.

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      1. I agree that working papers are where the most value can be gained most easily. I do think books and articles are a bit different – but you have a very good point.

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