¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 This letter constitutes my editorial response to your revised submission of “: “History Can Be Open Source: Democratic Dreams and the Rise of Digital History”, as based on my readings of two reader reports and the “open” comments of those who chose to engage with the revised piece on the web site.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Let’s start with the more “formal” readers. As is the AHR custom I returned your revised submission to two of the previous readers, with the request that they evaluate the degree to which you met some of their previous critique or objections.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 As I am happy to report, and as you no doubt can see from the reports themselves, these two readers find your changes satisfactory. Reader 1, it seems, has nothing more to add. Reader 2, a self-professed “open source maximalist” (my designation, true, but the reader appears to embrace this characterization) remains a bit skeptical. As before, they feel you fail to discuss a vast area of scholarship that raises central questions about democracy and open access—the world of journals. That’s true, but I think this will have to be the topic of another article and/or debate, given the issues it potentially raises (not least about the AHR itself). If you see an obvious place to allude to this lacuna, and perhaps at least note what issues it leaves unaddressed, that wouldn’t hurt, in my view. After all, as one reader asks, “Will this article itself be open-access when it is published?” A good question, and one I am not yet able to answer (though if we leave this site open, I guess so).
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 So far, so good. I profess to being a little disappointed—if relieved—at the paucity of remarks in the “open” sidebar on the revised submission. To this degree, I would count our experiment a failure, though you might see it differently.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Randall Miller, like reader 2, feels that you remain too parochial in your concerns. First, you focus only on the “American story.” That’s true, and it is a fair critique—but not all articles can do everything. Here too a footnote or even a paragraph may still be in order, at least to remind readers that this is part of a global set of initiatives. Similarly, a “nod” to the important place of community-generated projects—indeed highly democratic—seems worthwhile, as Randall observes.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Lara Putnam, the Consulting Editor for the section in which this contribution will appear, offers an important cautionary note: “the target of this particularly essay is something far more helpfully specific than “the rise of digital history itself.”” You will need to attend to that on the final revisions, lest your essay appear misdirected. You can consult directly with Lara, I think, if you need guidance on this.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 Dan Gorman offers a nice fillip on your attention to the New Left—what about the cyber-libertarians (if that’s the correct term) or techno-libertarians like Stewart Brand as important political predecessors? Gorman also notes (par. 10) that digitization also can lead to stretch-outs for support staff—and I agree, since that remains my critique of Open Access journals as well.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Indeed, par. 35 returns us to this question (I like how you quote from the process itself here, incorporating it into the article). I do not want to be misunderstood—the problem is not the lack of compensation for people like me; it is the real editors who after we accept this will do the fact-checking, copy-editing, and proofreading. All publishable academic work needs this compensated non-academic and value-added labor, which many academics (including me) are not qualified or competent to do. I have yet to hear of a revenue-generating model of open access that will be able to pay for this. In any event, you may want to address Jordan Taylor’s concern (if only to dispute it, if you care to) that DH can be anti-democratic because it throws up potentially high entry costs. See Jordan’s further caveats at par. 52. Both he and Miller Wright feel you bury the lede a bit here, so if you can highlight or foreshadow this call to arms at the outset, that might not hurt.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 All and all, with attention to a few of the above suggestions—especially Lara’s—we should be able to move forward to publishing this in 2021. How and when I leave to another, private, discussion.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Thank you both for initiating this. From where I sit, the results of this experiment are mixed. I do think that the process solicited some really useful comments that much improved the article; that said, I am less convinced that the more traditional form of peer reviewed wouldn’t have led to the same destination, and perhaps with fewer detours. But that’s less of a concern than what one person called the “the politics of the editorial letter”, with which they took issue. That leaves me—or any editor who does things this way—in a difficult position. On the one hand, I feel obligated to provide authors with a fully honest letter (as this one is). On the other, knowing that such a letter is open to public scrutiny, it is hard to maintain the kind of honesty that the more “confidential” process underwrites. For example, my critic was unhappy with my characterization of open access journals (yes, this goes back to reader 2, above). So, should I have left that part out (as reader 2 recognizes, this is a pretty important issue)? Or should I have communicated my views on that issue to you privately, in a kind of ex parte letter or email? That, of course, defeats the entire purpose of “open peer review.” Or does it? An unanswered question about the process—perhaps only the reader comments need be open, while author-editor communication of necessity remains private, preserving the kind of unvarnished exchange this sometimes entails. For example, in letters like this I often say “disregard reader X, for they have little of substance to offer.” That becomes awkward in an open process.