Sociology Establishes an Open-Access Journal

by John Sides on September 20, 2013 · 3 comments

in Academia

I’m very pleased to see that Sociological Science is open for article submissions, and expects to start publishing articles early next year. The journal is designed to ameliorate several problems that beset academic publishing. It’s an open-access, peer-reviewed journal that promises a fast turnaround time in review. It’s common enough in some fields for authors to get stuck, literally for years, in Reviewer Hell….Sociological Science promises a 30 day up-or-down review process, with no “development” effort and no R&R process. They hope to accomplish this with a relatively large pool of Deputy Editors with authority to accept or reject articles.

As a properly open-access journal, they’ve chosen to fund themselves through submission and publication fees instead of signing up with a major journal publisher or soliciting institutional support from a university or a foundation. The fee schedule is graded by rank, so students pay least and full professors pay most. The incentive is that authors retain copyright on their work and everything published is available ungated and immediately.

That’s Kieran Healy over at Crooked Timber.  The model is similar to the new political science journal Research and Politics, which Erik has been helping to start and described in this post.  I’m glad to see this model being established in other disciplines.

{ 3 comments }

Andrew Gelman September 22, 2013 at 12:53 pm

I wonder how this will compare to the journal Psychological Science, which has recently become notorious for publishing dramatic but unsupported claims, tabloid-style. (I’m sure that Psych Science publishes lots of good things too, but it’s gotten the reputation of being a tabloid.)

Kieran September 23, 2013 at 2:05 pm

I don’t think there’s anything intrinsic to the format or structure of the journal that would encourage it to become tabloid-ish. Is the thought that the combination of a preference for short articles and the lack of a paywall would encourage the editors to be irresponsible? It seems any journal, given unscrupulous enough editors, could go off the deep and and publish rubbish if it chose to. But I’m not sure I see much in the business model as such in this case to encourage that bad outcome.

I think the editors want to publish a high-quality journal. From their point of view there’s probably pressure to keep the standards high precisely because there aren’t many examples of this kind of open-access/publication-fee model in the discipline. Their organizational form is new, and the journal has yet to establish a steady flow of articles and commentary. So the editors have to balance the goal of generating regular output (and attention) against the longer-term goal of developing a reputation for publishing quality work.

Andrew Gelman September 23, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Kieran:

I’m not sure. I was really reacting based on the journal name more than anything else. But, if I were to express my concerns more fully, I suppose I’d say that there are two things about Psych Sci which may have led it to its current problematic status:

First, in its aim to be a high-end, high-publicity journal with short articles, it’s imitating Science and Nature, two journals that seem to reward the publication of large, dramatic claims based on a terse description of a single experiment. Second, the “science” part of the name makes me think there might be a focus on the quantitative signifiers of science, in particular that “p less than 0.05″ thing.

In sociology things might be much different. Sociology journals traditionally publish long papers, so maybe this new journal won’t go the way of Science, Nature, and Psych Science, which have had problems going for headline-grabbing claims based on sketchy data.

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