Welcome to the Science of Stories Call for Papers

Call for papers for a PLOS ONE Collection –

“There is no reason why the simple shapes of stories can’t be fed into computers.They are beautiful shapes.” – Kurt Vonnegut

Stories touch our lives, shape our identities and change how we view the world. They can be factual or fictional, text-based or visual and can take many forms—from novels and non-fiction to conspiracy theories, rumors and disinformation. We can characterize stories by their plot, their characters, their audience, their style, their themes or their purpose. Given the massive power of stories to alter the course of society, innovative methods to understand them empirically and quantitatively are necessary.

This call for papers for a PLOS ONE Collection convenes diverse perspectives from the humanities and the sciences to: (1) explore the nature of narrative and narrative thinking in texts and other media (including social media); (2) propose methods to extract stories from datasets and vice versa; (3) analyze how narratives are transformed and how they cooperate or compete with each other as they move through time and space; and (4) communicate data-rich narratives to the public. The Guest Editors are Peter Dodds (University of Vermont), Mirta Galesic (Santa Fe Institute), Matthew Jockers (Washington State University), and Mohit Iyyer (University of Massachusetts Amherst).

Specifically, we welcome primary research papers that propose solutions to real world, data-rich problems that use different empirical methods, in particular:

  • Quantitative analyses of texts and stories, including works examining how stories are transmitted through complex sociotechnical networks;
  • Efforts to establish or improve upon taxonomies of stories and plots in any storytelling domains, such as novels, non-fiction, movies, television, and folklore.
  • Works that use topic and opinion detection, natural language processing (including sentiment analysis), pattern recognition and machine learning tools applied to stories and narratives;
  • Empirical (experimental and survey) work on the communication and transmission of narratives, including research on how to effectively communicate data-rich narratives to the public and works on cultural transmission of narratives;
  • Applications of data visualization, data mining, and text mining techniques;
  • Quantitative analyses of the relationship between stories and public opinion.

Sharing the data underlying the studies’ findings will be a requirement of publication, per the PLOS data policy. Under this call for papers, authors are expected to provide, upon submission, the source code needed to replicate their findings, ideally in a repository (such as Zenodo, which can also import from GitHub) or a suitable cloud computing service (such as Code Ocean). Authors should explain in the manuscript’s Data Availability Statement how readers can access the shared code.

Authors are encouraged to provide executable documents, where applicable, such as a Jupyter Notebook or an RMarkdown. The Software Sustainability Institute provides guidance on choosing a repository and sharing code, as do these PLOS articles on Best Practices and Good Enough Practices in scientific computing.


Papers illustrating the Collection scope

Breithaupt F, Li B, Liddell T, Brower E, Whaley S. Fact vs. Affect in the Telephone Game: All Levels of Surprise are Retold with High Accuracy, Even Independently of Facts. Frontiers in Psychol. 2018; 9:2210.

Reagan AJ, Mitchell L, Kiley D, Danforth CM, Dodds PS. The emotional arcs of stories are dominated by six basic shapes. EPJ Data Science. 2016; 5:31.

Bruine de Bruin W et al. Effects of anti-versus pro-vaccine narratives on responses by recipients varying in numeracy: A cross-sectional survey-based experiment. Med Dec Making. 2017; 37: 860-870.

Chaturvedi S, Iyyer M, Daumé H III. "Unsupervised Learning of Evolving Relationships Between Literary Characters." In: Assoc. for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (2017) pp. 3159–3165.

Dahlstrom, M F. Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiences. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2014; 111: 13614-13620

Garg, Nikhil, et al. Word embeddings quantify 100 years of gender and ethnic stereotypes. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2018; 115: E3635-E3644.

László, J.  The Science of Stories: An Introduction to Narrative Psychology. Routledge; 1st ed. London. 2008

Moussaïd M, Brighton H, Gaissmaier W. (2015) The amplification of risk in experimental diffusion chains. Proc Natl Acad Sci. 2015; 112: 5631-5636.

Bamman B, Underwood T, Smith N. A Bayesian Mixed Effects Model of Literary Character. In: Proc. 52nd Annual Meeting of the Association of Computational Linguists (ACL); 2014. pp. 370-379

Propp, V.  The Morphology of the Folk Tale. University of Texas Press; 2nd ed. Austin. 1968

Weng L, Menczer F. Topicality and Impact in Social Media: Diverse Messages, Focused Messengers. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10: e0118410.


Meet the Editors 

Guest Editors

Peter Sheridan Dodds

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE 

Peter Dodds is Professor at the University of Vermont’s Department of Mathematics and Statistics. He is Director of the Vermont Complex Systems Center and co-runs the center’s Computational Story Lab. Having a general interest in stories and narratives, complexification, contagion, and robustness, Dodd’s research focuses on system-level, big data problems of all kinds, often networked, sociotechnical ones. His work has been supported by an NSF CAREER award to study sociotechnical phenomena, the McDonnell Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, NASA, the MITRE Corporation, Computer Associates, and Mass Mutual.

Mirta Galesic

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE 

Mirta Galesic is Professor and Cowan Chair in Human Social Dynamics at the Santa Fe Institute and Associate Researcher at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. She studies how simple cognitive mechanisms interact with social and physical environments to produce seemingly complex social phenomena. Her projects focus on developing empirically grounded computational models of social judgments, social learning, collective problem solving, and opinion dynamics. She is also interested in how people understand and cope with uncertainty and complexity inherent in many everyday decisions.

Mohit Iyyer

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE 

Mohit Iyyer is an Assistant Professor in computer science at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Previously, he was a Young Investigator at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence. Mohit obtained his PhD at the University of Maryland, College Park, advised by Jordan Boyd-Graber and Hal Daumé III. His research interests lie in natural language processing and machine learning. Much of his work uses deep learning to model language at the discourse level, tackling problems like generating long coherent units of text, answering questions about documents and understanding narratives in fictional text.

Matthew Jockers

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE 

Matthew L. Jockers is Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and Professor of English and Data Analytics at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. Jockers has been leveraging computation to understand narrative and style since the early 1990s.  His books on the subject include Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History, Text Analysis with R for Students of Literature, and The Bestseller Code.  In addition to his academic work, Jockers helped launch two text mining startups and worked as Principal Research Scientist and Software Development Engineer in iBooks at Apple.

Handling Editors

Yong-Yeol Ahn Yamir Moreno Leon Danon Irena Spasic
Eduardo Altmann Dion O'Neale Albert Diaz-Guilera Efstathios Stamatatos
Daniel Angus David Orrego-Carmona Jennifer Edmond Michael Szell
Alberto Antonioni Desmond Patton Sabrina Gaito Michele Tizzoni
Gareth Baxter Paula Pérez-Sobrino Natalia Grabar Olalekan Uthman
Tobias Blanke Nicola Perra Carlos Gracia-Lazaro Thierry Warin
Ryan Boyd Haroldo Ribeiro Thilo Gross Shuly Wintner
Ronald Breiger Sara Rubinelli Oliver Gruebner Yang Xu
Fritz Breithaupt Frank Rudzicz Jaroslaw Jankowski Hyejin Youn
Sabine Brunswicker Ilya Safro Tomasz Kajdanowicz Qingpeng Zhang
Zhiqiang Cai Mohammed Saqr Yu-Ru Lin Asim Zia
Siew Ann Cheong Rossano Schifanella Joseph Marr Xiaowen Dong
Johan Bollen Roberta Sinatra Chris Danforth  

Submission Instructions

Articles must be submitted by 14 June 2019

Are you ready to submit or want to learn more about how the submission process works? To make it as easy as possible for our communities, we have all of our submission instructions posted online. If there are any details you can’t find, or if you have any questions, please email us at

When submitting to the Collection, select the Article Type “Research Article” and enter “Science of Stories” in the Collections field in the Additional Information section of the submission form. Please also specify that you are submitting to the Collection “Science of Stories” in your cover letter.

Publishing Process

We aim to be as transparent as possible about our publishing and peer review processes. Papers submitted to PLOS ONE and under consideration for the Science of Stories Collection will be specially handled by hand-selected active researchers from our Editorial Board working in computational humanities and social sciences, in partnership with our Physical Sciences and Engineering Division Editor Leonie Mueck, Acting Division Editor Carla Pegoraro, and Associate Editor Deanne Dunbar.

For more information please see the PLOS ONE Editorial and Peer Review Information page

Highly Cited PLOS Papers in Understanding Narratives

Anatomy of an online misinformation network

Authors: Chengcheng Shao, Pik-Mai Hui, Lei Wang, Xinwen Jiang, Alessandro Flammini, Filippo Menczer, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia

Published: April 27, 2018

Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence

Authors: John Cook , Stephan Lewandowsky, Ullrich K. H. Ecker

Published: May 5, 2017

Emotional Dynamics in the Age of Misinformation

Authors: Fabiana Zollo, Petra Kralj Novak, Michela Del Vicario, Alessandro Bessi, Igor Mozetič, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli, Walter Quattrociocchi

Published: September 30, 2015

Comparing deep learning and concept extraction based methods for patient phenotyping from clinical narratives

Authors: Sebastian Gehrmann, Franck Dernoncourt, Yeran Li, Eric T. Carlson, Joy T. Wu, Jonathan Welt, John Foote Jr., Edward T. Moseley, David W. Grant, Patrick D. Tyler, Leo A. Celi

Published: February 15, 2018

Debunking in a world of tribes

Authors: Fabiana Zollo, Alessandro Bessi, Michela Del Vicario, Antonio Scala, Guido Caldarelli, Louis Shekhtman, Shlomo Havlin, Walter Quattrociocchi

Published: July 24, 2017

Crowdsourcing a Collective Sense of Place

Authors: Andrew Jenkins, Arie Croitoru, Andrew T. Crooks, Anthony Stefanidis

Published: April 6, 2016

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