The readings for this week focus on the seemingly necessary evolution of the field of history to include digital scholarship and work as valid projects for professional historians to earn merit from. They also support the idea that scholarship must incorporate more digital tools and move toward new digital platforms in order to best serve a changing world.
Jo Guldi’s article entitled, “Reinventing the Academic Journal,” was of particular interest to me. Changes in how academic journals are used, presented, and published will have a significant impact on my research methods and ease of research process as a young historian in my student career and professional career. Guldi claims that we need to do away with “the old warhorses” of traditional peer reviewed journal articles and books as our main method of presenting academic history and evaluating the merit of historians.
Guldi also argues that journals should incorporate “interoperability” with search tools and other web tools while becoming more easily accessible to public audiences. Guldi states that this will help with ease of searching for researchers, as well as allow for more intense peer review of articles because they are accessible to a large audience of reviewers both professional and amateur.
While I agree that journals must adapt to changes in the way research is done in order to stay relevant in the field, and that increased ease of searching during the research process is helpful, I have reservations about the idea of this universal peer review suggested. Guldi claims that this access puts an article through much more rigorous peer evaluation than traditional methods of peer review for paper journals.
While this might be true, I worry that allowing such a wide base of reviewers can lead to commentary from those who do not know enough about the subject material clogging up the review process. It also seems like the review would never end. As Guldi suggests, this method could lead to a work being edited forever, and never being fully finished. To me, this seems a bit impractical for busy historians to deal with, and I wonder how much of a good thing (peer review) can be too much? When should we draw the line and say something is complete?
Another striking part of this article was when Guldi suggests that journals need to allow themselves to change into online curatorial sites for scholarship and historical work of different mediums, instead of just traditional peer reviewed written work. This is an intriguing concept, because it sounds great on paper, but makes me nervous to think about in practice. I already struggle to find secondary source material when researching because of the vast amount of material kept in the stricter databases like JSTOR and others that focus on traditional written mediums. The amount of documents is overwhelming, especially when trying to narrow down a research question. Adding videos, photos, lists, syllabi, lectures, abstracts, and blogs would only make this problem worse.
This is especially relevant when dealing with budding historians at the undergraduate and masters level, who are truly experiencing researching for the first time in the field. It might just put them off of the rewarding parts of researching and learning about a topic. As mentioned before, there may be too much of a good thing…I’m really not sure where I stand on this, because I can definitely see the positive aspect of having all types of resources in one database or site, and expanding ideas of what counts as scholarship, but I hesitate. What do you all think?
Yes, historical scholarship, including journals, must evolve to meet the research and learning needs of future historians in the digital age. However, I have to consider the fact that thousands of historians have put so much effort and time into traditional methods of researching and presenting their scholarship, that it seems a waste and unfair to disregard the “old warhorse” methods. I also wonder what potential issues could arise from the changes to journals suggested by Guldi, and if the benefits can outweigh or negate these concerns?