Publishing and Scholarly Communications Readings – Lindsey

There are many problems with academic publishing as it stands today. One large problem comes from the nature of peer review. This slow process makes it so the information is not in conversation with the latest scholarship of the field. The peer review process also means that a few anonymous scholars get to decide the worthiness of an article. Additionally, the rising costs of historical monographs and subscriptions to academic journals means that information does not actually reach the public. Rising costs also means that specialized articles which are worthy, but not wide reaching enough, are never published. Because publishing is the key to success on the academic job market, this system that qualified scholars cannot find success. Debates in the Digital Humanities reminds us that these problems in publishing are not limited to history, but are true across the humanities.

Digital publications provide solutions to these problems. By being open access readers are able to access scholarship quickly and freely. Digital publishing also increases the possibility to publish papers which are technically sound but may have niche audiences or not be revolutionary to the field. Digital publications address the problems of the peer review process by using the “publish then filter,” community editing model. This editing system allows a broader cross section of scholars to decide what scholarship is important and worthy of publication. But, the unique nature of digital scholarship does more than solve the problems of traditional publishing. The Difference Slavery Made project reminds us that digital projects are not just online recreations of traditional monographs. Instead, new arguments and processes are applied because of the digital medium. One new possibility for advancements in digital scholarship comes from new possibilities of visualization. Discussed by Mills Kelly and John Theibault, and executed through projects like Ghost Metropolis, these visualizations provide a new way to present, understand, and interpret data.

But many scholars are resistant to this new kind of publishing and scholarship. There are concerns that this scholarship is less worthy, that digital projects compile information but do not answer historical questions, and those hesitant scholars are not sure how to evaluate this kind of work for tenure. Some of this resistance is because these changes are not just about changing publishing, but are also about changing the culture of the profession. The digital humanities broaden the definition of what is considered scholarship, makes more publications possible, allows process and not just finished products to be presented, and makes the profession less isolated. The resistance of some scholars is a boon to the rest of the profession attempting to find solutions to the current problems of academic publishing while avoiding being left behind by the digital age.

But there are many scholars addressing these concerns and creating a new kind of scholarly web based publication as a solution. A few of these publications include Press Forward, Journal of Digital Humanities, Writing History in the Digital Age, and born digital dissertations. These publications address issues of ‘worthiness’ of their publications by keeping peer review intact. Indeed, the publish then filter model allows for more diverse content whose value is judged by a wider audience of scholars. These journals are also free and open access, making it so that more information can reach a broader audience. The medium of digital publications also makes it so that the content is more timely and has the possibility of being in conversation with one another. Despite these works and their publishing processes which lose the worst elements of traditional academic publishing while keeping the important elements intact, Laura Mandell reminds us that we should still be wary of those articles which seem to only be published online because they could not find another home. Worthy online publications take advantage of digital tools and methodologies, use a form of peer review, and are well done, meaningful pieces of scholarship. Once this kind of publication is embraced the humanities will find themselves in a more stable, less threatened profession.

Sunday, July 14th, 2013 Publishing & Scholarly Communication
1 Comment to Publishing and Scholarly Communications Readings – Lindsey
  1. Avatar of J. Freels

    The more people commit to open access the faster it will become the standard. After all, online dating was perhaps considered a bit creepy in the ’90s, but as more and more people engaged in it it became common and socially acceptable. Same thing with degrees from online universities — they are still perhaps not as prestigious as degrees from “brick-and-mortar” institutions, but they are much more accepted in the working world. If scholars started moving en masse over to making their work open access, institutions would have no choice but to reform their tenure policies to address the change — let’s face it… that is going to happen anyway. It is only a matter of when.

  2. J. Freels on July 17th, 2013

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