Editor’s Comments

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Dear Joseph and Ben,

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 As we continue our experiment in “open peer review” I take up my next usual task, which is to write the authors a “revise and resubmit” letter that attempts to summarize the reader reports.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Normally, this requires me to parse 5-6 anonymous reports, and to indicate which reader suggestions I think you can pursue, which seem optional, and which you might disregard. As an editor, crafting these “report letters” is by far the most challenging—and yet rewarding—aspect of my job.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 The open peer review process, however, may tilt the balance in the direction of “challenging.” Not only do I need to guide you through several reader reports, I must also incorporate over 80 different comments, by 15+ readers, into this letter. Of course, I could just throw up my hands and say “you figure it out”, and if open peer review were a regular process, no doubt I might have to. In this case, however, in the name of experimentation, I will do my best to incorporate as many of the peer reviewer remarks as I can in the space of this letter.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Let’s begin, as I ordinarily would, with the three anonymous reader reports.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Reader #1 is largely positive, but points to a few significant lacunae. First, this reader reminds you that you should pay attention to gender, especially when it comes to crafting your own origins story. This reader helpfully points you to the work of Sharon Leon (as do others) as a way to account for that in your own article. Related to this is thinking through “democratization” not only from the demand side—who gets access—but from the supply side as well (reader #3’s ¶5 agrees). How might the production side of open knowledge and digital scholarship be democratized? To this end, the reader feels that you shouldn’t just “include” the contributions of scholars of color, but really make their contributions a central element in your analytical frame and narrative of evolution.

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The second reader offers a far sharper criticism. He/she feels that you “sidestep” a crucial set of problems because you “bundle”—I would say “lump”—open access sources perhaps more than you should. If you do some “splitting”, this reader suggests, you might discover that different forms of “open” sources seem to have distinct democratic possibilities and limitations, depending on the producer, the users, the observers, and their overall political economy. Indeed, I myself would be one of those historians who “welcomes OER textbooks yet denounces a requirement for open access journal articles.” It is the case that an OER textbook in a highly commodified/monopolistic market, academic journals, accessible primary source materials, and complex digital websites all operate with different imperatives, funding needs, and labor inputs that make them incommensurate examples, so more “splitting” might be advisable.  To this end, this reader proposes that you “follow the money.”

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 1 This is interesting, and may be difficult. As someone who opposes the universal ideas of “open access” journals precisely because it presumes the uncompensated labor of copy-editors, proof-readers, fact-checkers, and article editors—all those whose labor produces “valued-added” elements to the raw materials of scholarship (and here, I do not necessarily include myself)–I would take issue with this reader’s statement that “the labor of editors and copyeditors” is supported by public funds. Certainly, that’s not the case with the AHA/AHR. And, while I take their point that “funding”—for research, graduate assistants, course release, and the like—already privileges scholars at the top of the food chain (especially, although not exclusively, at private institutions, not public ones), I see no reason to compound this with the author processing fees that open access journals will necessitate. My own view is that it is the OA advocates who tend to “sidestep” the problem of uncompensated labor. Take a look at Jordan Taylor’s insightful comment at ¶30 for a similar concern.   

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 But that’s just me (and Jordan, I guess). My own very strong disagreement with this particular reader is not really the point here: they throw down an important challenge to you on this score, and I think you need to find a way to address it, one way or another. This reader, clearly an OA maximalist, feels that by “lumping” you “give too much cover to lukewarm moderates [like me!] who will praise the American Yawp while impeding open access itself.” Do you? How might you avoid this tendency, if you want to? Or do you prefer to double down on the problem of uncompensated labor? Either way, it deserves to be addressed more directly, it seems.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Reader #3 offers more of a “structural” critique. They feel that in your effort to describe democratic origins (something I always welcomed in this piece) and measure democratic outcomes you fall between two stools. I do not want to make you choose, so do try to “draw a tighter connection.” Here you might indeed do more to distinguish OER from other aspects, since it seems that it may have more democratic possibilities—or if it does, you might explain why. [Again, speaking for myself, I often feel the call for “open” academic journals makes the odd presumption that anyone other than professional academics would want to read them. OER is different]. Here again, like reader #1, you are urged to “split” a little—don’t conflate OER and other genres of OA, don’t conflate digital humanities and digital history, and so on. Sound advice, clearly. And don’t limit OER itself to textbooks and AY—your own experience here may get in the way of you seeing OER more broadly.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 This reader also throws into question some of your assertions—the degree to which DH has in fact been “institutionalized”, the degree to which its democratic aspirations have really “failed”, the degree to which “innovation” is inherently neo-liberal.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Finally, the big question: how to democratize OA even further, especially without exploiting “volunteer” labor?

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 In a regular review process, my work would end here, urging you to look for places where these readers converge—around the problem of lumping in particular, and the democratization of production, and the definition of key terms. But now let me turn to the “open” comments, as best I can. Here I would look, especially, for those remarks that converge on or illuminate some of the key points found in the three reports. And, as you will see, many do—especially around the call for you to think more carefully about the terms you use and the nature of what, exactly, is under scrutiny here.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Let’s start with Randall Miller and Cameron Blevins, who in essence have offered non-anonymized reader reports. Miller, as an outsider (like the readers) pleads for some definitional clarity: what are the “normal” definitions, past and present? Can you disaggregate processes a bit when it comes to democratization?  He also chides you a bit for your Americo-centric views—you need, at least, to acknowledge and explain this, I think. And are you giving enough voice to the “community” side of open access resources and practice—an excellent question! For his part, Blevins (an insider) ratifies the remarks of the anonymous reports: you conflate digital humanities and digital history in an unhelpful way, it seems. Disaggregating them clearly will be the central task of revision; the latter needs to be folded into a more robust discussion of Public History per se; indeed, that was definitely Roy R’s starting point, wasn’t it? Elsewhere, Blevins rightly observes that the “conflation of the two means that some of [ your ] discussion lands well off-target.” Perhaps, Blevins notes, you miss the digital history trees for the digital humanities forest. Some examples drawn from digital history might even bolster your argument, and attend to the diversity reader #1 is looking for. Trevor Owens (another quite substantive set of comments from an ”insider”) seconds this, also suggesting that the digital humanities focus leads you astray and that you tend to use fuzzy and undifferentiated notions of “open”, insufficiently defining your terms—a common theme.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Let me shift now to reading the comments paragraph by paragraph, rather than in chronological order, and pointing to what I see as especially helpful remarks. (That’s not to dismiss the others, which you can read at your leisure, but I do need to prioritize or I will never finish this).

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 ¶3 It does seem that your swat at Wikipedia is a bit mis-placed—I am not sure we all hate it as much as you seem to think we do, for instance.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 ¶4 Clearly this is where the problem of conflation begins—RE both OER and other OA forms, and DH vs. DH. So this is where you will want to clarify.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 ¶6 Here is where you will want to think a bit more critically about another term: democracy. What does it actually mean in this context, and why? ¶ 7 has the same issue, especially where you “lump” a lot of things together.

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 ¶16 here you might attend to the presumed audience for a lot of CHNM projects early on; this wasn’t just about “access”, but targeted audiences as well.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 ¶24 seems to conflate “open source” and “open access.” Yet, with all due respect to Trevor (who contributes a lot here), I think he is off the mark when he says “I don’t have any sense that there is suspicion about the quality of digitized primary sources that cultural heritage institutions around the world have made available.” Quite the contrary. Indeed, the AHR publishes lists of open digital primary sources, and the quality of curation, translation, access, and digital legibility across institutions, platforms, and projects varies enormously.   

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 ¶49 Jordan Taylor makes another good point here—you need to consider this as part of the more general “digital” ecosystem of which it is a part—that makes “finding an audience” all the more challenging, doesn’t it? So too in ¶51, he wisely cautions you against the techno-utopianism of “is as easy as.” In this case, for example, doing an “open peer review” was as easy as posting your article on-line and inviting people to review it. Guess what—it was not easy!

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 ¶52 Finally, the punch line: not everyone seems convinced by your declension narrative from radical participatory democracy to neo-liberal disruptive technocracy. Personally, I am convinced (that’s what makes me somewhat more digi-skeptic than the rest of you). But your critics are not, so you will need to strengthen this narrative line with more evidence, or else abandon it for something else.

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 To conclude, I suspect that from the authors’ point of view this form of peer review is enormously helpful. And I thank all of the readers—15 open, 3 anonymous, by my count—for their excellent contributions. Speaking as an editor, however, I am less persuaded. Since my job is to summarize the reports and incorporate them into a letter offering some direction for revisions, I find this far too labor intensive to be a regular editorial practice. I simply would not have the time to manage this with every single article. I suppose that if the AHA could hire multiple editors to do this kind of work on open peer review, it might be possible. In an open access world, I must say, that would take very hefty author processing fees!

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 I look forward to reading the next version of this.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Alex Lichtenstein

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 Editor, American Historical Review,

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 April 19, 2020

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Source: https://ahropenreview.com/HistoryCanBeOpenSource/editors-comments/