AHA Day 2: The Future of History Journals in the Digital Age

At session 136 on Saturday, Prof. Douglas Seefeldt led a roundtable discussion with Christopher Grasso, David Rich Lewis, John F. McClymer, Abby S. Rumsey, Sefan Tanaka, and Allen Tullos. The purpose of the panel was to explore ways to reduce the gap between scholarship in the profession’s journals and the scholarship of the web. University presses and scholarly journals remain the gold standard for tenure and promotion, and time has not solved the problem of valuing digital work below that of print.

Those participating faced a series of questions. They spoke on the steps they were taking to move their journals into the digital age. Some are making concerted efforts to incorporate new digital supplements to their journals while others, like the peer-reviewed Southern Spaces, is entirely digital.

The issue of peer review was a key focus in the discussion as well. The editors generally agreed that double blind peer review panels could maintain their function, but also begin bridging the gap of print and digital by incorporating experts on the content and experts on the digital to talk together and assess how well content and form interact. Stefan Tanaka challenged the idea, suggesting that double blind review is only one of several ways to do peer review. He also pointed out that a peer review process exists online, and these discussions needed to happen online where the scholarship is being produced. An example that Tanaka points to is blogs, where people are doing serious, public scholarship and should be recognized as communities of conversations.

Open access formed another nexus of the conversation. Open access digital publishing gives authors an idea of how many people are viewing their work. Abby Rumsey provocatively suggests that libraries have the money to fix the problem — they have the ability to reshift their budgets and support digital humanities without any problems. Exploring the digital space means being more demanding about libraries finding solutions, and they can find solutions by reallocating budgets. “University libraries still have a lot of money,” Rumsey suggested. “If faculty demanded they support digital and open access scholarship, they would.”

Journal editors suggested that they are open to the idea of digital scholarship and are waiting for more submissions of such work that force them to think about ways of incorporating digital work into their apparatus.

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