SocArXiv Opens - and ACRL Encourages Opening LIS Research

A terrific new open access platform for social science and a new policy statement from ACRL - two reasons to celebrate.

July 14, 2016

I’ve been busy all week taking care of a two-year-old. It’s amazing to watch a child that age learning constantly – new words, letters, numbers, how to put things together, how to take them apart. I haven’t been able to keep up with news very well, because I haven’t had much chance to sit down with the laptop and there’s nothing more interesting to a small child than an iPhone in someone else's hands. It’s a little scary, actually, to see how well tiny fingers can tap and sweep and navigate apps and take endless pictures of their own toes. Luckily, swings and slides and other children are interesting, too. All in all "keeping up" takes on a whole new meaning. (Parents of small children, my hat is off to you.) 

Though I haven’t been keeping up with the library world much, there have been a couple of important developments of note. First, the social sciences will soon have a spiffy new platform for sharing social research openly with the world. This is particularly important since Elsevier bought SSRN, a place where many scholars – particularly economists and legal scholars – had shared their white papers, preprints, and articles.  Tens of thousands of scholars boycott Elsevier for their highly profitable but problematic practices. Now, a group of sociologists and librarians are launching a truly open alternative in partnership with the Center for Open Science.

The SocArXiv (which is already hosting preprints through a temporary arrangement while the platform’s construction is completed) has a stellar steering committee. It will enable researchers to post drafts and link versions together with permanent identifiers, as well as to link it to datasets and other materials through the Open Science Framework. Elsevier expressed its ambition to be part of a researcher’s entire process as they buy up various research tools and the data exhaust from the social networks they enable. This well-planned endeavor gives researchers a non-corporate alterative that is dedicated to sharing ideas, not monetizing them.

If you’re a social scientist, why should you care? There’s a blog post at SocArXiv that provides a cogent answer (and if you want to get started right now, it explains how). If you’re not – well, it’s high time that research about social issues should be available to society at large, to policy makers and program developers and everyday citizens, not just to the few who are affiliated with well-funded libraries. This is a wonderful development. Read more about SocArXiv from Philip Cohen at the LSE Blog.

There was one other thing that made me cheer (well, apart from Carla Hayden – an actual librarian - finally being appointed Librarian of Congress, with only a few sourpuss senators voting against her because she’s, well, a librarian who has done librarianish things like question the Patriot Act and oppose required internet filters that made it impossible to look up breast cancer because “breast”). That was when the board of the Association of College and Research Libraries approved a statement encouraging librarians to make their research open access. This seems a small thing. We’ve been a voice for open access for a long time now. It’s a no-brainer for us to walk the walk. Like scholars in other fields, many librarians simply don’t bother. There’s no excuse. None. It’s shameful to lecture people in other disciplines on the virtues of open access to knowledge while being too lazy to take a few simple steps to make your work available to the vast majority of working librarian who do not have access to academic library journals. I’m delighted the association has stated the obvious and has urged librarians to do the right thing. They’ve gone a step further, too, adding this statement:

It is also imperative that publishers of library and information science scholarship explore and implement publishing models to make their content openly accessible as soon as possible. Librarians who are editors, reviewers, and authors should assist with this effort by engaging with their publishers about these models.

Yes indeed. Let’s do this. Let’s cheer for a new effort to make social science research available to all – an effort supported by librarians as well as social scientists – and let’s do everything we can to make our own research open.

It’s not rocket science. Hey, if a two-year-old can figure out how to use an iPhone, what’s your excuse?    


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