The Shift Away From Print (To online journals and blogs)

This recent article from insidehighered.com is about the transition of academic journals from print to electronic versions. The problem is especially acute in humanities disciplines such as history. Blogs are recommended as one solution. There is some discussion of how blogs can be supplemented with peer review:

“A disconcerting number of nonprofit publishers, especially scholarly societies and university presses that have the greatest presence in the humanities and social sciences fields, have a particularly complicated transition to make. The university presses and scholarly societies have been traditionally strong allies of academic libraries…this same set of publishers is particularly vulnerable, because their strategic planning must take place in the absence of the working capital and the economies of scale on which larger publishers have relied. As a result, some humanities journals published by small societies are not yet even available electronically. The community has a need for collaborative solutions like Project Muse or HighWire, (initiatives that provide the infrastructure to create and distribute electronic journals) for the scholarly societies that publish the smaller journals in the humanities and social sciences. But if such solutions are not developed or cannot succeed in relatively short order on a broader scale, the alternative may be the replacement of many of these journals with blogs, repositories, or other less formal distribution models.

In the comments section someone calls blog publishing “unsubstantiated drivel”. Perhaps he is not aware of blogging in the science community. Citation checking and peer review could be even more intensive and thorough under a blogging regime of academic publishing. Blogging would also seem to be ideal for collaborative writing. Another poster counters the claim that blogs are necessarily drivel:

“Unsubstantiated drivel is not limited to blog formats. It can also be found on copier paper, on newsprint, and even on acid-free paper in university library archives.

“If I had no budget but had a burning desire to launch a new journal with a cadre of colleagues working in very narrow new subfield that did not require complex visual layout (thus probably in the humanities), I wouldn’t hesitate to launch a peer-reviewed blog. Blog software is relatively cheap (even free) and is designed to organize mostly textual databases that are augmented chronologically, in short, databases of periodicals.

Peer review could take place on-line, using anonymous aliases, in the form of comments to unpublished articles, with access limited by logins and passwords controlled by the editorial board. When ready, the article could then be published (with real names) for search engines to index for free, and for anyone to read for free. Comments could either be disabled, or enabled for a restricted, registered membership, whose contributions can be moderated by editorial board members (just like these comments).

“Blogs might be a poor scholar’s solution, but they do offer several advantages: low cost; control over input (peer review, drivel reduction, flame prevention); and an organized, online, open-access, searchable database archive.”

[Note: I have an article I am working on for publication that I should attempt to use the blogging format for. The main Chinese primary source, the Ming Shi-lu, is online. The main Burmese primary source “The Burmese Chronicle” I have in my own manuscript translation that can be put online in increments.]

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