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New journal speeds access to sociology research

Stephen Morgan
Kim Weeden

A new, innovative, open-access online journal for sociological research launched in February, with the help of Cornell sociologists Kim Weeden and Stephen Morgan, the Jan Rock Zubrow '77 Professor in the Social Sciences.

“Sociological Science aims to be the flagship journal for social scientists who are committed to advancing a general understanding of social processes,” says Weeden, a co-founder and deputy editor for the journal. “It provides a platform for the sociological community to engage in meaningful public debate about cutting-edge sociological research.”

“The social sciences are key to addressing critical public issues like obesity, immigration and educational attainment,” says Gretchen Ritter, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. “This journal provides an important new way for the research of social scientists to be shared.”

Weeden says the nonprofit journal’s main goal was to shake up top-tier sociological publishing by offering an alternative to the standard editorial model. The journal takes advantage of low-cost, open-access publication platforms, an approach that gives sociologists a forum for public engagement and a way to help shape public discussion and policy debates.

“The new model improves communication between academic researchers and the general public,” says Weeden. “We’re bringing conversations that usually occur behind the scenes between authors and reviewers into the open. And because the journal isn't behind a subscription paywall, anyone with Internet access can read the papers and comment on them.”

The journal’s emphasis on sociological research relevant to contemporary public discourse is evident in the papers in its first issue, which included research on gender differences in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) participation, online social movements, race relations in online dating practices and the value of time off from work.

Although submissions are subjected to rigorous peer review, the journal’s emphasis on evaluative rather than developmental reviews leave authors – not reviewers – in control over the final product. “Scientific progress requires free and open exchange, and judgments of novelty and impact are best left to the journal’s readership,” the journal’s submission policies state.

Unlike traditional journals where review times stretch for months and sometimes years, Sociological Science promises decisions within 30 days – and has been averaging two weeks, says Weeden. “By getting sociological research into the public domain so rapidly, the journal is giving its readers a way to respond to evolving debates and perspectives in a more timely way.”

In addition to Cornell’s Weeden and Morgan, the editorial team includes Jesper Sørensen and Sarah Soule (Stanford), Olav Sorenson (Yale), Ezra Zuckerman (MIT) and Delia Baldassarri (NYU).

Linda B. Glaser is staff writer for the College of Arts and Sciences.

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John Carberry