6.0603 CLIONET (Australia) (1/212)

Thu, 18 Mar 1993 16:41:21 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 6, No. 0603. Thursday, 18 Mar 1993.

Date: 16 Mar 1993 13:45:11 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Australians reply with their own online history journal

<Date: Wed, 10 Mar 1993 21:08:43 +1000 (+1000)
<From: Paul Turnbull <hipgt@jcu.edu.au>
<Subject: CLIONET (Australia)
CLIONET: an Electronic Journal / Network of History

Dear Colleague:
CLIONET grows out of a suggestion ventured at the October 1992
meeting of Heads of History Departments, that the AHA investigate
publishing honours/postgraduate work through the medium of an electronic

Basically, the suggestion was that articles, research reports and
reviews by honours students and postgraduates be put into an electronic
format and sent to a designated location set up within AARNet (Australian
Academic Research Network). This location would be made accessible to all
members of the AHA - or indeed anyone with access to AARNet. Material
could be read, and copies taken through file transfer to personal or
departmental computers. The journal could even have an annual
competition, in which readers voted for the work of honours and
postgraduate students judged to be of exceptional quality. The five or so
pieces of work gaining the most praise in the course of a year could be
printed in hard-copy, perhaps in conjunction with a leading
commercial/scholarly publisher. Even without a competition, good work
might tempt a publisher.

With the support of the Department of History and Politics at James
Cook University, an electronic journal of history, CLIONET, has been
established, and will be fully operational by late March 1993. Time and
the support of historians across the country will determine whether it
proves - as we hope - an innovative, positive, response to the problems of
encouraging and disseminating historical scholarship in Australia. In the
light of concerns raised at the last History Department Heads' Meeting,
CLIONET is particularly keen to publish the work of younger scholars, but
welcomes articles, reviews, etc. regardless of contributors' status or
fields of research. In time, we would like to see the journal become the
backbone of a national historical research network, facilitating exchange
of data between researchers, providing access to textual, audio and visual
sources in various metropolitan and regional centres, and perhaps even
course materials for distance tertiary education.

It could, we hope, come to inform mainstream Australian cultural
debates, by making good history readily accessible to journalists working
in print and other media, probably for an annual subscription fee.

Specialist academic presses and journals, as we all know, are greatly
constrained by the economics of quality publishing; and this influences
editorial policy. Despite the hard work of editors to accommodate a wide
variety of research interests and styles of historical scholarship, a
significant amount of good work does not get published. Some journals
simply do not have space. Articles take a long time to appear, especially
when editors seek to improve the attractiveness of their journal by
devoting issues to specific themes or methodological issues. Some
editorial boards seem inclined not to risk the publication of work that is
innovative or unusual in terms of style or methodology. Others go for
theoretical innovations in ways which can count against writers who prefer
to work with more conventional ideas of history.

By creative use of technology, CLIONET will be run with a degree of
editorial freedom and flexibility which very few print journals enjoy.
The journal will be as long or short as the sum of the material received,
while the cost will limited to print expenses at the user's end. In the
long-term the journal will probably seek some contribution from users to
editorial and host institution computing costs. But for the foreseeable
future there will be no subscription charges.

While several people have so far responded enthusiastically to the
idea of an electronic journal, some concern has been expressed that work
placed on AARNet, especially work in progress by honours and postgraduate
students, might easily be stolen or plagiarised. Certainly, theft could
occur. However, once contributions have been refereed or read, and made
available to subscribers in electronic format, they have been published
and are subject to current national and international copyright law. In
its first year of operation, CLIONET will monitor the traffic of material
to subscribers. This could also prove useful for authors who have
concerns about their work being reproduced by subscribers for teaching

Speedy publication of work in progress, while still in progress, or
freshly completed, will, I suspect, not only serve to enhance research
students' intellectual property rights; it will also greatly boost morale.
The most rewarding experiences of long postgraduate years are often the
times when feed-back is gained at conferences, or when senior colleagues
give up precious time to read and comment on drafts. How much more
rewarding it will be for current and future postgraduates to have a ready
outlet for work in progress that might attract a wide range of unsolicited
comments and criticisms from scholars in various parts of Australia.

As to editorial policy, in the first instance, CLIONET will establish
an editorial board and have articles put on open access after being
appraised by at least two referees. Editors and referees will have to
possess basic computer literacy, but there are a surprising number of
respected scholars around Australia who do, and the number is growing.

Given that CLIONET can in theory publish everything it receives in
the course of a year, we plan, for the time being, to adopt a fairly
liberal editorial policy. We are especially keen to produce reviews of
important books as soon after their publication as is practicable.

We feel there are persuasive historiographical grounds for editorial
liberalism. We do not go as far as the anarchist philosopher Paul
Feyerabend, in holding to a policy that "anything goes" in terms of
content or style. Still, we aim to run a journal which takes full
advantage of its freedom to encourage ideas at variance to, or
incommensurate with, established disciplinary aims and procedures. Such a
policy, coupled with the ability to publish critical comment and authors'
replies to criticism within the space of a month, or perhaps even less,
will, undoubtedly, spark some fascinating engagements and conceptual

There is also an important utilitarian argument for editorial
liberalism in these post-Dawkins days. It will provide individual
academics, departments, universities, state agencies and policy makers
with much more realistic and useful indications of how historians are
spending their time.

Since the establishment of the new, unified national system of higher
education, the historical profession has not responded as well as it might
to key state agencies' concern with encouraging and measuring
productivity. Many of us have doubts about the worth of the conceptual
vocabularies of the new education culture. These doubts are not eased by
consulting a growing literature on productivity and performance indicators
in the humanities, much of which confirms what many suspected - i.e., so
many factors must be appraised if one is truly to determine productivity
that it would be lunacy by any criteria to try. Nonetheless, it could be
a different style of folly to remain wedded to the aims and assumptions of
the print culture of an earlier epoch.

The transnational status of much scientific and technological
research has meant, logically enough, that specialist publication profits
from having an international pool of potential contributors and readers.
The economic rewards for servicing this international information market
are reflected in the fact that most of the world's leading scientific
journals are the property of transnational media concerns. Not only is
international scientific publication profitable, it has invested heavily
in technologies designed to meet foreseeable demands for greater speed and
accuracy in the publication of contributions. It only seems a matter of
time before editions of the world's leading scientific journals will be
written in digital code and distributed by pay satellite link.

Meanwhile, the humanities face a situation in which recession has
worked to compound the difficulties of publishing. And things could
worsen if moves to impose uniform performance indicators across
institutions result in publications in the humanities being weighted
without regard to the realities of scholarly publishing.

CLIONET will aim to be an important mechanism by which the real
productivity of university and public historians can demonstrated. By
publishing quickly and cheaply work that meets an agreed base set of
criteria, the journal will provide individual researchers and departments
with additional means to give funding bodies a more realistic account of
the work they are undertaking, or wish to undertake. In this way, CLIONET
might not only help strengthen individual and departmental applications
for research funding, but also aid departments in many institutions to win
greater funds through merit research and "claw-back" mechanisms.

As mentioned above, the journal is seen as the first step in the
evolution of a national history computer network. At James Cook, for
example, the department has had an active publications program for over a
decade. In the past five years we have moved from reliance on conventional
printing to PC based desk-top publishing of histories and important
collections of historical records. It seems logical to now explore the
publication of history through electronic media. We are also commencing
work on the electronic storage and retrieval of visual and oral sources
for North Queensland history, and to date have the indexes to our
extensive oral history collections in a format which allows them to be
consulted on PCs within the department. In all likelihood, similar
developments have occurred in other centres throughout Australia.

Even more exciting are the possibilities suggested by recent
innovations in the area of digital storage of documents, audio material
and photographs. At James Cook we are already thinking of ways in which
sources for the history of the region might be made available
electronically to researchers and teachers across Australia. No doubt
other departments have similar projects envisaged or under way; now we
should begin working towards ensuring our respective projects are pursued
with an eye to their eventual siting within a national history network.

We propose to run CLIONET from the 1993 academic year, and now invite
the submission of articles, reviews, comment etc. Contributions may be
written in either straight ASCII code or as a Post-Script file from any
word-processing language. They may be submitted via email or posted to us
on a 3.5 inch disk. If submissions are on disk we ask that they be IBM
compatible, but we will accept MAC disks if you cannot get access to a
conversion program. Manuscripts in hard copy will only be accepted if they
are typed in double spacing and are of a style that can easily be read by
optical character reader. Contributors may follow their preferred
conventions in respect of citation and bibliography. Preferred style
guidelines will be available on request by the new year.

CLIONET will reside in James Cook University's gopher, under
"Academic Departments." Files may be read in either ASCII or Postscript
versions. How copies of files are then printed or transferred to local
networks will depend on what sort of hardware you have at your disposal.
If you look in the JCU gopher now you will find a copy of this file you
may print or down-load to your own machine. If you cannot use gopher
software contact hipgt@marlin.jcu.edu.au

At the end of each year of operation, all ClIONET files will be
printed onto microfiche and deposited with the Australian National
Library. Microfiche copies, complete with an index, will be made available
for sale to interested libraries and researchers.

We would be interested to hear from people willing to serve as
readers, reviewers or being part of a working group dedicated to
establishing a national history network. Most importantly, we would like
to alert potential readers. If you are interested in receiving updates on
the journal, simply register your email address with us.

CLIONET, an Electronic Journal / Network of History
James Cook University Q4811
email: hipgt@marlin.jcu.edu.au