Image via Marco Fieber.

Collabra’s First Paper Goes Viral

“Go big or go home.” It’s a defining phrase in today’s lexicon, and while we don’t have the saying pinned to our cubicle wall or scrawled at the top of our white board, this sensibility has underscored our approach to launching Collabra. It was clear from the submissions we had under review that any one of them would be strong starters. But one surged ahead in the process as we watched by the sidelines, its team of editors and reviewers working efficiently together. Its authors quick to address revisions. To us, we were seeing our publishing model in action. Collabra was working! Nobody was going home. That, in itself, was gratifying. But considering the paper’s topic — a large-scale study showing that America’s bias toward gay men and lesbian women is abating across the demographic board — we were privately thrilled to have it be the first horse out the gate. Because if you look at the vigor behind the LGBTQ movement this century, it’s clear that nobody’s going home here, either. Love is winning, and big. And Collabra’s first accepted paper validates what most of us kinda know: that the culture is shifting. People of every ilk are becoming, by strides short and long, more accepting of people pairing up in love, regardless of gender. The media clearly endorses this change too, as evidenced by the broad coverage of this comprehensive study, titled “Implicit Preferences for Straight People over Lesbian Women and Gay Men Weakened from 2006 to 2013.”

Image by NordNordWest.

The paper, led by Erin Westgate, PhdD candidate in psychology at the University of Virginia, along with Brian Nosek of the Center for Open Science and Rachel Riskind of Guilford College, shows that Americans across the demographic spectrum — age, race, gender, and political views — have become increasingly accepting of gay men and lesbian women. In fact, explicit bias dropped by 26 percent, even though implicit bias dropped by only half that. What’s that mean? Overall, everyone’s feeling the love — by degrees — for same sex partnering, but for some folks, their overt change in perspective might not yet register at the unconscious level. As Westgate told the New York Times, “We change what we consciously endorse first, but it might take some time for that unconscious decision to trickle down to the unconscious and change those associations that have built up over a long time.”

The article’s authors opted for open peer review, which means that the peer review correspondence is also published along with the article.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better opening article,” says Collabra’s publisher, Dan Morgan. “Obviously, it is a compelling and important research topic, and the publicity and downloads following the article have proven this. But the article also showcases many of the features and principles that we are promoting — open data, open review, and reviewers signing their reviews (which is currently optional). The authors also shared additional measures, codebooks, and reported all data exclusions, manipulations, and how they determined their sample sizes, leading to far greater transparency. As such, it is a model of ‘open science.’”

In addition to being featured in the New York Times, Westgate’s paper was written up in New York Magazine, U.S. News and World Report, Pacific Standard, TIME Inc.’s, International Business Times, Gay News,, and dozens of independent websites, including UnicornBooty. Additionally, two separate wire stories — by HealthNews and Stephanie Pappas at LiveScience — were picked up by hundreds of additional outlets.

What’s perhaps more indicative of the study’s appeal are the metrics associated with it. In the two weeks since it released, it’s been viewed 2640 times as HTML and downloaded 167 times as PDF(at time of this writing).

The paper also enjoyed a flurry of support on Twitter, including the following:

“People today are genuinely more positive toward gay and lesbian people than they were just a decade ago,” says Westgate. “The research shows that attitudes across the board are truly changing.”

And from our point of view, shifts in attitudes about openness are a good thing.

As a nonprofit publisher and a member of the academic community, UC Press designed Collabra to ensure that the value generated by editors and reviewers can be channeled back into the research community. Collabra reduces barriers to high-quality open access publishing by offering a low author processing charge (APC) of US$875, and a waiver fund to cover APCs for authors unable to pay. Unlike other OA journals, Collabra invites editors and reviewers to share in the value the journal creates through the work they do. They have control over what they earn; they can (1) pay it forward to the “waiver fund” at Collabra, (2) pay it forward to their institution’s OA fund, or (3) elect to pay themselves.

— Merrik Bush-Pirkle