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Meet Ilja van Beest

The Editor-in-Chief of Social Influence

Meet the Editor

We sat down with our Editor-In-Chief, Ilja Van Beest, to ask a few questions about
Social Influence, including his plans for the journal, and what it can do for authors looking to publish their research open access.

Here is what he had to say.

How do you see open access publication shaping research?

My feeling is that we, as scholars, have an obligation to transfer our knowledge to the general public and fellow scholars. Therefore, I believe there is a benefit in taking away any hurdle that would prevent other scholars or the general public taking notice of what we do. We want others to know about our work, and vice versa.

I also want to know what others are doing. Most scholars don’t have infinite resources, and the general public also doesn’t have infinite resources, but in the end we are paid by and for the general public.

To me, Open Access is a shift in thinking about how we make knowledge accessible and towards a fairer process, which eventually should increase the impact that we have as scholars.

As a prospective author, what are the benefits of publishing in an open access journal, like Social Influence? 

 

If the information that you want to share is easily accessible, it will also increase the impact of your publication, so that is one clear benefit.  As we are one of the first fully Open Access journals in the social psychology area, I hope that this provides an opportunity that scholars have been waiting for. 

Open Access also means becoming aware of the cost of publications, so there is a transparency that will drive publishing to become more efficient. At the same time, we have an excellent board of reviewers, we have excellent associate editors, and we will continue to give scholars a quality review and considered decision. If people are interested in reaching a large audience through Open Access and getting a quality decision that helps them move their work forward, I think Social Influence will be the place for them.

Authors may also benefit from Taylor & Francis’ transformative agreements, meaning that if they are based at eligible institutions, they can publish their work in Social Influence at a discount or at no cost to them.

 

 

Which topics are you most interested to cover in the journal, during your tenure as Editor in Chief? 

As I indicated in my Editorial, there are many ways to study social influence. Though when I find myself explaining what social influence is, I often refer to the classics of our field that went out of their way to assess social influence in controlled settings, showing that social influence can change actual behaviour.  I realize that research on actual behavioral change is a little bit more difficult to navigate, compared to questionnaire-based research in which we assess opinions about an attitude object. But the signature that I would like Social Influence to be known for, is experiments with random assignments that try to change the behaviour of individuals. There are particular costs and challenges to this work, and that’s why we will be launching two new initiatives in 2021. One is the Registered Report, which is becoming increasingly more available in other journals, where you have a research question and enough resources to test that research question in the most optimal way.  If you do that, and you make a convincing case, you will be published in our journal.

The second one I call a Registered Proof of Concept, for researchers that do not have enough resources to fully test their hypothesis, but enough to provide a proof of concept. For example, if you realise that you should test a hundred supermarkets and a hundred participants to really test your hypothesis, but your resources only stretch to testing one supermarket and fifty participants, the Registered Proof of Concept would allow you to test whether the procedure that you have in place to test your hypothesis is feasible. Other researchers can then use your study to draw a clear inference. With the Registered Proof of Concept, we will provide a platform where a difficult question can be posed, and invite other scholars to jump on the bandwagon, and generate resources to test the hypothesis fully. In this way, I hope that Social Influence will provide a new platform that will generate new, creative ideas and allow a more collaborative, iterative form of scholarship.

What do you think are the current challenges that are facing the social psychology research community, and how could Social Influence specifically or Open Access more generally, help with these challenges? 

I think the biggest challenge we as scholars face is the replication crisis, and we need to find new ways to ensure the quality of our data. That’s why I strongly believe that these registered reports will allow researchers to boldly go where no one has gone before and publish their results. If there are no findings from these studies, that is also fine, because in the long run if enough of us do this, we will have a better estimate of true effects. With this in mind, I hope that these Registered Reports will go some way in addressing the replication crisis.

A related challenge is that scholars should run adequately powered tests to assess their hypotheses, and this coincides with a need to obtain a sufficiently large sample. The problem is that individual scholars may not have the resources to navigate a sufficiently large sample, especially if the sample/measurements are also labour intensive to acquire. An often-taken remedy appears to rely increasingly on self-reported measurements that are acquired by vignettes in an online sample, as these are relatively cost-effective. A problem, however, is that not all types of social influence are adequately assessed by such a method.

Another remedy of course, is that an individual scholar shies away from studies that are labour intensive, which has the consequences that other scholars are not aware or cannot be inspired by what might actually be a great research question. I hope, however, that the new initiative of Registered Proof of Concept will offer a third route, as it invites people to think beyond the limits of their resources. I hope that this opens up new ways of research on social influence, and that it lowers the threshold for scholars to embark on studies that rely on more difficult samples or more labour-intensive measurement. In short, if you have a great idea, go for it!

The other challenge that faces social psychology at large is that increasingly we need to be able to explain not only the scholarly value of what we do, but also its impact on society. We need to explain how we address the current crises that we face- including COVID-19, climate change, the global economy, issues faced by young and aging people in particular contexts, and so on. The focus and research agenda of Social Influence is specifically tailored to address those type of problems, so I look forward to contributions that will make that happen.  Our Open Access model will also make research available to people and organisations that are making policy decisions on these issues, which is hugely exciting.

 

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