Analytics: Volumes 1-3

Introduction

People might have been skeptical about our ability to build a sustainable, low cost, quick turnaround academic journal. This skepticism may hinge on the assumption that academic publishing requires a big bankroll. But what if you don’t need a ton of money to run an academic journal? We think we’re getting closer to showing you what that might look like.

Sociological Science is currently publishing papers in volume 4. In keeping with our mission to operate with transparency and in the spirit of sharing with the open access community, we’d like to report some analytics and lessons learned. As we move forward, and as we come to understand which metrics prove to be the most enlightening, we’ll find a more structured, standard set of metrics to report each year. In the meantime we’ll share what we learn as we go; here’s the first report.

Milestones/Early Progress. We’ve certainly come a long way since September 2013, when we first began accepting manuscripts for review. The details of how the team built Sociological Science from the ground up deserves a whole report in itself. Until then, here’s the condensed version: In volumes 1 and 2, the team focused on building the editorial team, creating the journal and the website, establishing the publication process, and building the non-profit. In volume 3, once things were up and running, the focus shifted to refining the processes and on establishing a sustainable business model. It’s also heartening to report that Sociological Science continues to receive an increasing number of submissions each year.

Early Challenges. Our primary challenge in volume 2 was a sudden backlog of accepted papers waiting to be copy edited. Finding and coordinating freelance copy editors who were available to copy edit, while accommodating the ebb and flow of our production schedule, proved difficult. We were at the same time looking for a sustainable business model; we did not have unlimited funds. So in later part of volume 2, we realized that we needed to make a choice; either focus our efforts on finding a significant source of outside funding so that we could afford to hire staff and editors to manage potential backlogs, or find a way to streamline the copy editing process and substantially reduce production costs. We opted for the later. We’re now happy to report that we’ve automated the bulk of our production process (and we’re pretty proud of it), streamlined the copy editing and publication processes, and stabilized our production costs.

Editors. The manuscript submission and review process is managed using Scholastica’s peer review platform. The Editor-in-Chief, Deputy Editors, Consulting Editors and Board Members are all volunteer and continue to provide authors with an up or down decision within 13 days (on average).

Media Mentions. International media attention indicates relevance and increases exposure. We’re excited to report that papers published in volumes 1-3 have been mentioned in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Vox, Huffington Post, Daily Kos and The Guardian. to name a few. You can find a more complete list here.

Social Media. Sociological science announces each new publication via Twitter and Facebook. Having over 4700 followers on Twitter and over 8800 Facebook followers we find this an effective way of getting the word out. We are also fortunate in that we continue to enjoy robust community engagement and exchange on social media channels.

Financial health. Financially, we basically break even using our current fee structure. But thanks to memberships and donations we have a small financial reserve to deal with unexpected expenses and to make improvements (like adding Altmetric).

The Future. We have many projects and improvements in the works. For example, in addition to making improvements to the website (e.g., adding a pre-formatted way to cite papers), we are also in the midst of registering with Web of Science and adding Altmetric. We are also finding new ways to improve the author experience, to expand our reach, and to increase community engagement. Grant funding would of course help us expedite the achievement of many of our goals. Though in lieu of large grants, we press on and fund future improvements using membership and donation funds as they become available (illustrating the importance of our members!). Our primary goal is to publish quick turnaround, great open access sociology at the lowest cost possible. We think we’re doing that now, but we’ll keep working to improve.

Below is an overview of the editorial and production processes. I’ve also included some interesting author demographics.

Review process summary

Sociological Science published its first paper on February 18, 2014. We published 30 papers in Volume 1 (2014), 28 papers in Volume 2 (2015) and 48 papers in Volume 3 (2016). From the time we began accepting submissions, in September 2013, and through December 31st 2016, we’ve processed 515 unique manuscript submissions. Following are acceptance rates and additional details for each volume.

Volume 1, 2014. During our first year we took in 126 unique submissions1 and accepted 33 papers. This resulted in a 26% acceptance rate2. On average, it took us 17 days to accept, and 9 days to reject a manuscript. We published 30 papers in Volume 1.

Volume 2, 2015. We received 145 unique submissions and accepted 28 of those manuscripts. This resulted in a 19% acceptance rate. The average number of days it took to accept and reject papers increased a bit; it took an average of 20 days to accept and 11 days to reject a manuscript. We published 28 papers in Volume 2.

Volume 3, 2016. In 2016 we saw a steady increase in submissions receiving 207 unique submissions that year. Of those manuscripts we accepted 42, resulting in a 20% acceptance rate. It took us 13 days to reject, and 20 days to accept, a paper (on average). We published 48 papers in 2016.

Volumes 1-3: The Authors

Author Country of Origin. Sociological Science encourages submissions from all scholars, regardless of position, affiliation or country of origin. In volumes 1-3 the 106 papers published were written by 212 authors. Of those 212 authors, 179 reported having an US university affiliation and 33 reported having a non-US affiliation.

Though the majority of the authors were affiliated with US universities, those authors from non-US universities hailed from the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Canada, Italy, Israel, China, Denmark and France. We continue to encourage authors of all positions and affiliations to submit papers.

Author Rank. A question that comes up often is; do only full professors publish in Sociological Science? We think this is an important question and one we’d like to be able to answer. And though we have only examined data for Volume 3, and then only for the most senior co-author, we found that 27 were full professors, 20 associate professors, 9 were assistant professors, and 2 fell into the student, postdoc, or non-tenured faculty category.

While this is interesting, it does not really give us the full picture. Consider that in Volume 3, 13 papers were single authored, 20 papers had 2 authors, 12 had 3 authors, 2 had 4 authors and 1 had 5 authors. This means that by only reporting the most senior co-author for each paper, we are only accounting for 47% of all published authors in the table below. And though this gives us a sense of the academic positions for authors publishing in Sociological Science, it does not give us the complete view. For future volumes we hope to have the data that allow us to report positions for all published authors.

Production Process Summary

To reduce production costs we’ve automated much of the production process. I will write up a more detailed piece on the automation in a future post. But for now, what follows is a brief summary of our production process and the services we use.

The ushering of manuscripts from one place to another is largely automated and monitored using a combination of Zapier and Trello. For copy editing and typesetting, we send all our papers to J&J Editorial, LLC. J&J Editorial provides a fantastic service and our senior copy editor Donnie McLohon does an amazing job (thank you, Donnie!). Parker Web Services manages our website and schedules papers for publication. They also perform other important tasks related to publishing each paper, such as uploading information to CrossRef, EBSCO, and DOAJ. Parker Web does a fantastic job (another huge thank you to our primary developer Amanda Brenes — who is also amazing!). Both companies have been extremely accommodating in working with us, particularly within our ever-evolving production framework. It’s worth noting that while both of these services are technically outsourced, we feel very much like Donnie and Amanda are an integral part of our production team. And their companies’ ability to scale means that we gain the streamlined expertise that we need, when we need it, at a cost only accrued when we have papers to publish. This is important because it helps us better predict the cost per paper, which ultimately helps us keep costs as low as possible. The Executive Director (that’s me!) designed, and continues to refine, the production process, which currently hums along in the background with very little back and forth between actors and with few delays. Consequently, I spend a lot of time focusing on finding innovative ways of achieving a lean, elegant, publishing process, supported by an independent, sustainable business model; one that does not include having to rely on large grant infusions. But don’t get me wrong; we can certainly put large grant infusions to good use!

Would you like to know more? Tell us what you’d like to know, and we’ll work to include it in our next report. Please send your comments to production [at] sociologicalscience.com.

And finally, thank you for your engagement. Your readership, submissions, likes, tweets, shares, and feedback all contribute to the journal’s success. Thank you!

Christine Isakson
Executive Director, Society for Sociological Science

Find out how to donate or become a member here.

The services we use:

Submission and Review platform: Scholastica

Copy Editors: J&J Editorial, LLC

Developers: Parker Web Services

Webhosting: Bluehost

Website: WordPress*

Production workflow: Trello*

Storage: Dropbox

Automation: Zapier

Memberships: Memberful

Newsletters: Mailchimp*

Social Media: Twitter*, Facebook

Social Media creation & management: Adobe Creative Cloud, Buffer

Invoicing & payments: Wave, Stripe, Paypal

Email: Bluehost and gmail*

* denotes we are currently using the free version

  1. The total unique submissions = manuscripts submitted from Jan 1 through Dec 31
  2. Acceptance rate = total papers accepted/total unique submissions
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