RoundtableMultiSession Digital History Workshop, Part 1: The Future of History Journals in the Digital Age

AHA Session 136
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Chicago Ballroom X (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Douglas Seefeldt, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Christopher D. Grasso, College of William and Mary
David Rich Lewis, Utah State University
John F. McClymer, Assumption College
Abby S. Rumsey, Scholarly Communications Institute
Stefan A. Tanaka, University of California, San Diego
Allen Tullos, Emory University
The Future Is Here: Digital Methods in Research and Teaching in History

Session Abstract

The Future of History Journals in the Digital Age

As digital technologies advance rapidly, as vast repositories of information come online, and as more and more people participate in the digital revolution around the world, historians face a very important set of decisions about the nature of historical scholarship and its forms. Yet, few venues exist for scholars to conceive, produce, and distribute their digital work, or to communicate with one another about the forms and practices of the digital medium. While several funding institutions have committed significant resources to the development of digital collections and tools, most prominently the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, scholars perceive few options for publishing digital work and university presses and leading journals have been slow to embrace "born digital" scholarship. The professional associations (the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians) have taken crucial steps in promoting digital scholarship and provided essential leadership. Our challenge now is to build on their foundation and create a wider scholarly community of authors and journal editors around Digital History to identify, peer review, and disseminate article-length digital scholarship by placing these works in some of the leading journals.

One of the most important aspects of this roundtable discussion will be to explore ways to reduce the gap between the scholarship in the profession's journals and scholarship on the web. After significant discussions with History Cooperative journal editors over the course of the past year and a half and during meetings at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last fall, supported by an NEH-funded Digital Humanities Start-Up Grant titled “Sustaining Digital History,” digital historians have found wide support for taking some steps to close this gap. Journal editors see the burgeoning work on the web and recognize its value. They also recognize the challenges of peer reviewing this work. Currently, the journals serve as the gatekeeper and record of scholarship in the fields of history, yet most do not yet index, review, refer to, incorporate, imprint, or publish anything from the digital medium. Conversely, the independent scholarship historians have produced on the web remains all too often unconcerned with peer review, editorial control, and incorporation into the scholarly record. Because digital work is rarely featured or recognized in the profession's leading journals, among other reasons, younger historians have proven reluctant to develop born digital scholarship and departments have had difficulty evaluating this scholarship for promotion and tenure.

This roundtable discussion seeks to explore avenues of practice for integrating digital scholarship into the record of professional scholarly activity and to consider how best to help authors, reviewers, and editors negotiate a difficult transition.

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