Kate and I are still buzzing from the great conversation we had with the people who came to our session at LOEX of the West. It’s always an amazing and kind of surreal experience when you find out that other people are excited by the same ideas you are.
And it seems that other people really are. Almost the second we stopped talking, we started finding other people who were. All over the web.
At ACRLog, Barbara Fister brings up the issue of promotion and tenure, and how many committees find it difficult to evaluate the significance of publications that don’t fit into the traditional scholarly formats — particularly when they are trying to evaluate the impact of scholars from other disciplines. These ideas are strongly connected to the ideas about distributing professional rewards, and we really just got started talking about the question of expertise, and evaluating work outside your discipline at the end there – good to see and think more about it.
Dorothea Salo talks about the differences between informal writing on the participatory web (like blog posts) and scholarly journal writing. She brings up one benefit to scholarly journals that we only hinted at – the way that the lengthy give and take between author and editor in the traditional publication process can make an individual article better. Not bring it up to some objective standard of quality, but make it better than it was. She also talks about something we did spend a lot of time talking about – the archive of knowledge, or the scholarly record. But she goes a lot further than we did talking about the role academic libraries play in that process.
Then today, I saw Tenured Radical’s discussion of the Social Science Research Network. She’s asking why historians aren’t participating in this project, and looking at some of the implications of that lack of participation. The SSRN is a digital archive that has as its goal the rapid dissemination of research in the social sciences. It includes an abstract database (of scholarly working papers and forthcoming papers) and an e-library of downloadable papers. These resources are available to registered members for free; there are also entry points into some proprietary database holdings, for a fee.
Tenured Radical highlights one of the reasons we think it’s so important that we are all having these conversations – not to replace traditional forms of publication, but to make them accessible. Not to encourage scholars to write for the public instead of for each other, but to leverage technological change in ways that can keep that scholarly discourse available to those who want to find it —
An insistence that the only good work has been heavily vetted through our current refereeing practices may be a mistake, much as soliciting the criticisms of others does contribute to producing good work (although it doesn’t always, I’m afraid, as cases where flawed research has slipped through to publication or to a prize demonstrates.) In its current form, it may be a fetish that is doing us more harm than good, and may be something that our professional associations need to review to take advantage of an atmosphere of intellectual vigor offered by electronic and other forms of mass publication.