November 2011 Issue • Volume 39 • Issue 8

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A Call to Duty:
ASA and the Wikipedia Initiative

wikipedia

This autumn the ASA is launching a Sociology in Wikipedia Initiative. This project has two main purposes: first, to improve the sociology entries in Wikipedia by making it easier for sociologists to become involved in writing and editing them, and second, to facilitate professors giving Wikipedia-writing assignments to students in their courses. Before I explain in more detail how the ASA initiative will advance these goals, let me say a little about Wikipedia.

Wikipedia has become, in the decade since it first began, the world’s largest and most used general reference encyclopedia. Currently there are more than 3.7 million articles in English, more than 1 million in German and French, and more than 100,000 articles in each of 35 other languages. It is the sixth most visited website in the world and the only one in the top 10 that is nonprofit. While a few years ago many—perhaps most—academics were disdainful of Wikipedia and actively discouraged their students from consulting it, today many academics themselves consult the site for useful information (I certainly do, frequently). And whether professors like it or not, Wikipedia is now regularly used by students as a source for term papers and other writing projects.

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Sociological Spring:
Human Rights and the Discipline

Grassroots movements in many Arab countries are challenging the status quo, fueled in part by a collective embrace of the notion of rights that far surpasses the limited civil and political rights enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. Respect for human rights—as specified more than 60 years ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)—is fundamentally altering global human affairs. Human rights principles have had more of a sleeper effect in the United States, but the impact is no less pronounced. Minorities who served in the armed forces in WWII to defend the rights of those persecuted by the Nazis came home emboldened to secure for themselves the same rights at home. In short order, rights-based movements for racial and ethnic minorities, women, the LGBT community, people with disabilities, children, and others gained momentum.

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ICPSR Celebrates its Upcoming
50th Anniversary

This piece is based on a personal history of ICPSR written by Erik Austin, former ICPSR Assistant Director who retired in 2006 after 41 years at the Consortium; interviews with Austin, former Director Myron Gutmann, former Summer Program Director Hank Heitowit, current Summer Program Director William Jacoby, and longtime ICPSR staffers Peter Granda and Mary Vardigan; and various historical documents. All of this material and more can be viewed at www.icpsr.umich.edu/fifty.

The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) celebrates its 50th anniversary next year, but its origins go back even further than its founding in 1962. The idea for what is now the largest social science data archive in the world dates to the mid-1950s, when researchers at the University of Michigan held a series of seminars at which they provided access to data from the American National Election Study (ANES).

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Major ASA Award Recipients
Honored in Las Vegas

The American Sociological Association (ASA) presented the 2011 major awards at this year’s Annual Meeting on August 21 in Las Vegas, NV. The Awards Ceremony, followed by the Presidential Address, was well attended. These awards are given to sociologists for their outstanding publications, achievements in the scholarship, teaching, and practice of sociology, as well as for their overall advancement of the discipline. Click here for the profiles of the awardees.

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