June 19, 2009
What Is An Academic Press (2029)?
In my back-and-forth with Robin about publishers’ web sites hosting blogs by their writers, I simply assumed that everybody had read these four pieces, forgetting that I hadn’t blogged about them yet! Here’s my background.
- Macy Halford, “Blogademia”
- Chronicle of Higher Ed, Forum on Scholarly Publishing
- Peter J. Dougherty, “A Manifesto For Scholarly Publishing”
- Benjamin Kunkel, “Lingering”
The Chronicle Forum is particularly worth reading, especially the section at the end on new trends in scholarly writing. Here’s one excerpt from Alan Thomas at University of Chicago Press:
There has been a welcome trend, still continuing, for scholars to use the security of tenure to frame book projects for wider audiences within the academy, and sometimes outside it. But for first books, things haven’t changed much: The habit of writing to satisfy a dissertation committee carries over into writing to satisfy later professional gatekeepers, without enough regard for the book’s potential audience. The peer-review process is sometimes to blame for that (well-meaning readers’ reports sometimes have the effect of re-dissertationizing a first book), and we as editors need to help authors sort the good suggestions from the bad. One trend I don’t see, but would like to, is greater attention to writing skills in graduate school. When I speak to groups of grad students, I always urge them to cultivate an ability to write in several registers (through book reviews, blogs, journalism, and so on), even as they write their dissertations.
Doug Sery at MIT press also notes that “[t]here seems to be a movement afoot to change the evaluation criteria used by universities for promotion and tenure. Specifically, there is a desire among some academics to allow participation in blogs, online journals, and other new media to count toward their promotion and tenure cases,” while Doug Armato at Minnesota writes, “I see the blog form moving into scholarship through more diarylike texts. There is also a more European-influenced urge to write speculative scholarly essays or meditations with minimal footnotes and apparatus.”
To me, the most natural way to convince tenure committees to count participation in new media is to get university presses to sponsor it, and the most natural way for university presses to help use new media to get better books is to help shape how it’s done. University presses hosting and publishing blogs is Pareto-optimal.
In fact, I think this is going in my own essay on academia in 2029.