Poster Paper: Creating a Digital Archive for Doing Research on the Production of Social Science Knowledge

Friday, November 3, 2017
Regency Ballroom (Hyatt Regency Chicago)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Roberta Spalter-Roth1, Jean Shin2 and James Witte1, (1)George Mason University, (2)American Sociological Association

This poster provides an illustrated, schematic method for creating a digital archive that allows scholars to understand the development of disciplinary knowledge. This project, developed by the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the Center for Social Science Research at George Mason University (GMU), is currently funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). This is the first scholarly effort to develop such an archive. When complete, the archive will provide scholars, for the first time, with the ability to study the complete corpus of scholarship that was submitted for publication in the American Sociological Review (ASR) along with the peer reviews, quality judgments, and final editorial decisions that resulted in the publication or rejection of each manuscript. It will permit scholarly explorations of the evolution of the discipline, its paradigms, and intellectual networks, as well as the process of knowledge production and how it was shaped by the peer review process during a period of dramatic change in the discipline of sociology and institutions of higher education. For example, has there been a growth of policy research, minority and gender research, multi-method research, and non-Research I networks? For research and policy audiences, by including unpublished manuscripts along with published articles, the archive will make visible currently invisible professional networks and processes that span the discipline of sociology.

The poster outlines the five steps for developing the digital archive. These are: 1) Digitizing all manuscripts, reviews and relevant correspondence using optical character recognition (OCR) scanning to create searchable files; 2) Building a relational database of authors and reviewers with contact information, additional individual demographics such as gender and institution, and coded manuscript topics; 3) Securing permission from authors and reviewers to place their work in the archive in the form of identifiable files, which will allow for much more complex research on networks and academic careers; 4) Merging the database of author and reviewer information with the database of scanned manuscripts and reviews and then de-identifying those files for which we do not have permission to include identified copies; and 5) Establishing access requirements for and publicizing the availability of the research archive. This final step includes presenting a detailed research proposal, a notarized list of those working on the research, a plan for maintaining confidentiality, and a plan for managing the data. As part of a confidentiality agreement, researchers will agree to use aggregated data only with no identifying information. Once the archive is finished, we will develop and publish an instruction manual for training purposes as well as a data codebook. This will include testing sample hypotheses as examples.

We are currently in the midst of completing this process for the American Sociological Review (ASR), which is ASA’s flagship (general subject area) journal.

Other social science disciplines should be able to follow our method and create comparable digital archives so that changes in disciplinary paradigms, methods, and networks can be compared.