2021 content creation report

Detail from Wombo art from the prompt “hard work labor grind muscle sweat”, plus phone selfie.

Our bunny and I spent a lot of time in the home office again this year. One of us spent their time shredding up cardboard, eating green leaves, and pooping in a box — and the other one just sat around. Somehow, content was created.

The way I run my career these days, a good part of my work doesn’t figure in the accounting measures of productivity employed by my employer. Of course, I teach my classes. I am the director of our graduate program. I advise awesome students. I attend meetings (including of UMD PACT at the Libraries, where we work to promote open scholarship at the university), and I’m even chair of the Appointment, Tenure, and Promotions committee of our college. But, apart from the occasional “published” paper, conference presentation, or book, the rest of the content created is just out there.

So, with apologies to our Faculty Activities Reporting System (“Telling Y[Our] Story”, Faculty Success [formerly Digital Measures] by Watermark) if there is some overlap, here’s my content creation report for 2021.


Scholarly Communication

  • Altman, Micah, and Philip N. Cohen. Forthcoming. “The Scholarly Knowledge Ecosystem: Challenges and Opportunities for the Field of Information.” https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/ctdb9/. …We draw upon major reports from a cross-section of disciplines related to large scale scientific information ecosystems to characterize the most significant research challenges, and promising potential approaches. We explore two themes that emerge across research areas: the need to align research approaches and methods with core ethical principles; and the promise of approaches that are transdisciplinary and cross-sectoral.
  • Altman, Micah, and Philip N. Cohen. Preprint. “Openness and Diversity in Journal Editorial Boards.” https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/4nq97/. This study aims to measure diversity in scholarly journals’ editorial board structure and characterize patterns of editorial diversity across types of journals. To accomplish these aims, we integrate multiple sources of data at the journal and editor level to assemble a novel database describing the composition of editors and editorial boards for more than six thousand journals internationally, characterized by discipline, commercial publishing model, and research transparency. … Editorial leadership is more homogenous than editorial boards, and diversity across both boards and leadership varies substantially across disciplines. Open-access journals’ boards exhibit less gender diversity and more international diversity than their closed-access counterparts.

Pandemic studies

  • Cohen, Philip N. 2021. “Disrupted Family Plans and Exacerbated Inequalities Associated with COVID-19 Pandemic.” https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2784123. Commentary: In light of disparate impacts of COVID-19 itself and the social and economic fallout of the pandemic, research should concentrate on widening inequalities in fertility and family well-being, and their relationship to health disparities.
  • Cohen, Philip N. Preprint. “Baby Bust: Falling Fertility in US Counties Is Associated with COVID-19 Prevalence and Mobility Reductions.” https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/qwxz3/. The United States experienced a 3.8 percent decline in births for 2020 compared with 2019, but the rate of decline was much faster at the end of the year (8 percent in December), suggesting dramatic early effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which began affecting social life in late March 2020. Using birth data from Florida and Ohio counties through February 2021, this analysis examines whether and how much falling birth rates were associated with local pandemic conditions, specifically infection rates and reductions in geographic mobility. Results show that the vast majority of counties experienced declining births, suggestive of a general influence of the pandemic, but also that declines were steeper in places with greater prevalence of COVID-19 infections and more extensive reductions in mobility.
  • Cohen, Philip N. Preprint. “Pandemic-related decline in injuries related to women wearing high-heeled shoes: Analysis of U.S. data for 2016-2020.” https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.12.26.21268426v1. Background. Wearing high-heeled shoes is associated with injury risk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in work and social behavior may have reduced women’s use of such footwear. Methods. This study assessed the trend in high-heel related injuries among U.S. women, using 2016-2020 data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). Results. In 2020 there were an estimated 6,290 high-heel related emergency department visits involving women ages 15-69, down from 16,000 per year in 2016-2019. The 2020 decline began after the start of the COVID-19 shutdowns on March 15. There was no significant change in the percentage of fractures or hospital admissions. Conclusions. The COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a decline in reported injuries related to high-heeled shoes among US women. If this resulted from fewer women wearing such shoes, and such habits influence future behavior, the result may be fewer injuries in the future.
  • Cohen, Philip N. Preprint. “Injuries related to respiratory masks in the US.” https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/f3wbn/. Protective facemasks are important for preventing the spread of COVID-19, and almost all Americans have worn them at least some of the time during the pandemic. There are reasonable concerns about some ill effects of mask-wearing, especially for people who wear masks for extended periods, and for the risk of falling as a result of visual obstruction. But there are also unsupported fears and objections stemming from misinformation and fueled by political disputes. The study analyzed the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) for 2020, finding an estimated 5122 reported injuries in the population. The most common type of incidents involved facial injuries, rashes, falls, and those that might be considered anxiety-related. Wearing protective face masks is extremely safe, especially in comparison with other common household products, and in light of their protective benefits with regard to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Cohen, Philip N. Preprint. “Host, Parasite, and Failure at the Colony Level: COVID-19 and the US Information Ecosystem.” https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/4hgam/. This review uses host-parasite interactions in nonhuman species to frame the poor US response to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. The US defenses against SARS-CoV-2 were weakened by malformations in the information ecosystem that disrupted the dissemination of information while spreading misinformation and disinformation. Distortions arising from political corruption, and magnified by social media platforms, were especially consequential. I conclude that this failure may ultimately result in a social evolution that weakens US global dominance. On the other hand, if the crisis contributes to innovation and reform in the information ecosystem, that may contribute to a more egalitarian and democratic system for the production and dissemination of knowledge.

Families and households

  • Cohen, Philip N. 2021. “The rise of one-person households.” https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/23780231211062315. In this visualization, I show the trend in the proportion of households that comprise only one person in 75 countries, representing 73 percent of the world’s population, using national data collected between 1960 and 2019. Europe and the United States have the highest solo living rates, along with two African countries (South Africa and Botswana, both severely affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic), Israel, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. In all, 53 of the 75 countries exhibit increases in one-person households, including all European countries.
  • Caudillo, Mónica L., Andrés Villarreal, & Philip N. Cohen. Preprint. “The Opioid Epidemic and Children’s Living Arrangements in the United States, 2000-2018.https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/he4pb. Using the 5 percent sample of the 2000 Census, 2005-2018 American Community Survey (ACS) data and restricted Vital Statistics we assess the effect of the opioid epidemic at the local level on the rates of children living under different types of family arrangements. Local fixed-effects models show that a greater intensity of the opioid epidemic, as measured by a higher opioid-overdose death rate, is associated with a lower rate of children living with two married parents, and a higher rate of children living with two cohabiting parents, with only a father, and with adults other than their parents. The opioid epidemic appears to increase the rates of children living in family structures that tend to be less stable, which has potential long term implications for the wellbeing of future generations.
  • Cohen, Philip N. 2021. “Hard times and falling fertility in the United States.” https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/pjf3n/. Recent reports have suggested that falling fertility in the US since the 2008 recession is being driven by women with advantaged status in the labor market taking advantage of career opportunities. This paper takes issue with that conclusion. Fertility decline was widespread after the 2008 recession, but most concentrated among younger women. Although women with above average education have long had lower birth rates, the analysis shows that birth rates fell most for women in states with higher than average unemployment rates, especially among those with below average education. This is consistent with evidence that birth rates are falling, and births delayed, by economic insecurity and hardship.


Citizen Scholar

My new book, Citizen Scholar, is under contract with Columbia University Press. As I write, I’m posting essays and excerpts on this blog.

Media work

If my list is up to date, I was quoted in print or featured on TV, radio, podcasts, or whatever, about 34 times. Videos I could capture are on this YouTube playlist.


On my YouTube video channel I have class lectures, how-to, media appearances, and academic talks. The most popular one this year was an instructional video titled, “What is Life Expectancy?

This blog

Of course, there’s still this blog. As I write less on here and more in other venues — especially short papers on SocArXiv — reader clicks have fallen 50% since the peak in 2015, to about 200,000 in 2021. Still there were some popular ones this year:


This one isn’t really content creation, but curation or facilitation. SocArXiv, the research paper archive I’m director of, was made part of the University of Maryland Libraries this year, much to my delight. We also took in more than 2,600 new papers, a 17% increase from last year.


Just checking to see if you’re still reading. Yes, it’s here. I guess if you read this far you might like it. Happy new year!

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