Dear Prof. Janoski and members of the ASA Dissertation Award Committee,
I am writing to suggest a rule change for the Dissertation Award. Jordan Robison at ASA told me:
Any rule change for an award committee is usually voted on by the same award committee, presented to Committee on Awards. If Committee on Awards approves any rule change it is then brought to Council, who makes the final vote.
So it is my hope to persuade you to take this rule change up the chain to the Committee on Awards (currently chaired by Jane Sell at Texas A&M), and from there to Council (where the current liaison to the Committee on Awards is Adia Harvey Wingfield at Georgia State, moving to Washington University in St. Louis).
The issue has been raised with regard to 2011 winner Alice Goffman’s dissertation at Princeton. That dissertation is not available at the Princeton library. A query from me to the library produced this response from Martin A. Mbugua, Director of Media Relations & University Spokesperson:
Alice Goffman was granted an exemption from submitting her dissertation to the University Archives, so we do not have a copy of her dissertation in our collection. The Graduate School in 2012 instituted a dissertation embargo policy under which no dissertation would be exempted from the submission requirement. Thus, a dissertation may be embargoed for a period of time to allow for publication in other forms, but it must be submitted to the University’s Seeley G. Mudd Manuscript Library.
Goffman’s case is extreme in that her dissertation apparently may never be available, but it remains the case that people at Princeton (and at other schools) may choose to embargo their dissertations, to keep them out of public circulation, while they publish them commercially. Perhaps other schools also allow a complete exemption. If that is their privilege, and they choose to exercise it, then I believe they should be ineligible for the ASA Dissertation Award. My logic is that, if ASA holds up a dissertation as the best of the year, the purpose of that honor is partly to inspire and inform other sociologists about what constitutes the best doctoral research. If the dissertation is not publicly available, that purpose is undermined. Further, I think it would be a welcome – albeit small – signal in support of emerging norms of open science for the association to affirm the principle that dissertation research should be publicly available.
I propose the following rule be added:
In order to be considered for the ASA Dissertation Award, a nominee must commit to making his or her dissertation publicly available through a suitable academic repository by the time of the ASA meeting at which the award is granted.
Thank you for considering this request. I welcome your response, and would be happy to work with you on getting this rule – or something like it – passed by the ASA Council. Please let me know if there is anything else you need.