Bringing Sociology and Social Science into the Open

Social scientists now have an easier, faster way to deliver their research to the people who need it most thanks to a new, open source archive developed through a partnership between the University of Maryland and the Center for Open Science. Launched in beta version December 7th, SocArXiv is a free, non-commercial service that allows for rapid sharing of academic papers, alleviating frustrations caused by sluggish publication processes and paywalls that limit the audience for academic research.

“For researchers, it’s extremely frustrating when it takes months to get a paper published, especially when we are addressing emergent, time-sensitive issues that are constantly evolving,” said SocArXiv Director Philip Cohen, a Professor in the Department of Sociology at UMD. “SocArXiv offers a space for scholars to share their work with fellow researchers and the general public with no wait time and without the subscription fees often associated with academic journals.”

While the archive welcomes all social science research, the program is building from a strength in sociology, a discipline that lacks a strong tradition of preprint publication and open scholarship, Cohen said. With the Center for Open Science developing the technology, SocArXiv is focusing on planning, community mobilization, outreach and governance of the archive. To support that mission, the Open Society Foundations and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation have each granted the initiative at the University of Maryland $50,000 for the coming year.

Since development began in July, researchers have deposited more than 600 papers into SocArXiv, which have been downloaded more than 10,000 times. Scholars are able to upload working papers and preprints of their articles, making their work immediately and permanently available to other researchers and the public, and discoverable via search engines. Like other paper servers, SocArXiv includes work that has not been peer reviewed, allowing faster communication of findings and inviting the kind of feedback and collaboration that improves research, Cohen said. The standards for moderation on the system are still in development, he added.

“We are building the future of social science scholarly communication,” Cohen said. “For social scientists—and sociologists in particular—to affect real change in the world, they must bring their work out into the open to make it better, faster, more accountable and more transparent.” 

About SocArXiv

SocArXiv (pronounced sosh-archive) is a partner of the nonprofit Center for Open Science and is housed at the University of Maryland. Led by a steering committee of sociologists and research library leaders from around the country, it is dedicated to opening up social science, reaching more people more effectively, improving academic research, and building the future.

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