SAGE Publishing has issued the following press release announcing the winners of its 2021 Concept Grants.

London, UK (August 10, 2021) — Six innovative software tools benefitting the social and behavioral sciences will receive SAGE Publishing’s 2021 SAGE Concept Grants, with £15,000 awarded to Empirica, a customizable virtual lab platform for conducting human-participant experiments. An additional five seed grants of £2,000 will enable the development of earlier-stage tools that support research methods in the social sciences.

“Despite the rising popularity of online research, social scientists still face many technical and logistical trade-offs when implementing virtual lab experiments,” say Empirica developers Abdullah Almaatouq and Nicolas Paton. “Existing tools that promise ‘build anything’ functionality often require advanced programming skills to design, while more accessible models limit researchers to predetermined research templates. Empirica offers a solution to the usability-functionality trade-off.”

Empirica supports methodological advancement in two areas: First, it enables researchers to test thousands of experimental conditions for any given experiment. Second, it allows users to study groups comprising hundreds of interacting individuals. By using a flexible default structure and settings, Empirica provides modifiable templates for novice programmers and unlimited customization for advanced users.

The funding from SAGE will allow the team behind Empirica to increase the accessibility of virtual lab experiments, remove barriers to innovation in experiment design, and enable rapid progress in the understanding of human behavior. New features will provide researchers with more options for designing group tasks and studying interpersonal dynamics.

SAGE has awarded five additional grants of £2,000 to software tools in the early stages of development, to enable concept testing and software development. The 2021 winners are:

  • Multytude by Hatice Ugurel, Yalin Solmaz, and Hande Enes: A social media platform designed to facilitate meaningful online conversations. Replicating in-person focus groups, the platform aims to help social science researchers collect and track robust public opinion data.
  • SMIDGen by Matthew Louis Mauriello: A scalable, mixed-initiative dataset generation tool for online social science research – a semi-computational approach to enhance the replicability and scalability of data collection from online social networks.
  • Intelliplanner by Willem Jan Horninge Roestenburg, Janus Roestenburg, and Emmerentie Oliphant: A software application to guide students and researchers in planning, mapping, and making decisions about the methods used in their social research projects.
  • AcademicTwitteR Studio by Christopher Barrie and Justin Chun-ting Ho: An R package that makes the new Academic Research Product Track more accessible to researchers.
  • REFI-QDA Project Exchange Standard by Christina Silver, Kristi Jackson, Fred van Blommestein, and Graham Gibbs: An open access and free standard to enable the transfer and accessibility of qualitatively analysed data across CAQDAS tools.

“When we launched the SAGE Concepts Grants program in 2018, we focused on funding tools that would help computational social scientists,” says Katie Metzler, Vice President of Books and Social Science Innovation at SAGE Publishing. “Now in its fourth year, the program has expanded to fund new tools that support the adoption, development, and application of established and emerging research methods. As the world’s leading research methods publisher, we are excited to broaden the scope of the Concept Grants to empower more social scientists to conduct impactful research.”

To learn more, read an interview with the winners on Methodspace.