Proposing New H-Net Networks

This page reviews the reasons why you might—and might not—want to propose a new H-Net network and outlines the process for doing so.

H-Net networks constitute powerful tools to shape scholarly discourse and pedagogical practices. Because of their underlying platform and overarching governing structure, they wed digital communications with academic best practices in ways that can be particularly appealing within some fields of study. The fact that H-Net has nearly 200 topically-defined networks and regularly receives proposals for new ones attests to our value to humanists and social sciences. Our largest and most active networks have thousands of subscribers who receive our content through email notifications and receive tens of thousands of web visits every year. But there are now many competing media, digital platforms, and academic organizations that offer both distinctive and overlapping opportunities. For this reason, it is important to H-Net that you consider whether an H-Net network is really ideally suited for your purposes. H-Net does not harness its networks for revenue but instead invests resources in them. For this reason, our primary concern when considering whether to launch a network is its intellectual sustainability and coherence, its relationship to our other, existing networks, and its potential value to scholars, teachers, and other academic practitioners. Below, we itemize some reasons why launching an H-Net network may be appealing and then offer some advice about cases where your ends may be better served by a different platform or medium.

Why H-Net?

H-Net networks offer several potential advantages to those hoping to form and shape a field of study. Our networks:

  • Tap into a pool of tens of thousands of H-Net subscribers with diverse interests and backgrounds who can sign up for email notifications from your network, rapidly providing a large audience.
  • Publish all their content on an open access digital platform and do not charge fees for subscriptions. Often, H-Net networks represent the single largest academic community focused on a particular subject, and are accessible to the public as well.
  • Are modular in form and content. We encourage editors to borrow, with attribution, project ideas from each other and to apply them to their own intellectual communities.
  • Rest on a community of fellow editor who can share ideas, offer advice, and ask each other questions through private discussion networks.
  • Can be large or small. Some of our networks have thousands of subscribers. One runs its own journal. Others sustain small, tightly-focused intellectual communities. A key criterion is sustainability, namely in the ability of editors to recruit successors from their subscriber rolls when they’re ready to hang up their spurs.
  • Do not host advertisements and do not ask subscribers to view advertisements.
  • Are built around editorial practices that require accurate attribution, encourage careful concern for copyright, and preclude post-hoc editing or deleting of discussions.
  • Rely on trained experts to prevent malicious behaviors common to the web. Because of this, our networks are free from trolls and spam. We prohibit ad hominem criticism.
  • Rest on our own platform, which H-Net, a non-profit academic organization governed by elected officials, controls. We host our content on our own servers and we do not sell user data.
  • Are designed to ensure the long-term preservation of their academic content beyond the editorial career of any one individual.
  • Are interconnected to each other through a common nomenclature, platform, and governing structure. Our networks are not scattered across the web and do not rely on viewers finding them.
  • Focus on intrinsic academic value and the common good of their field of study.

Why not?

In some cases, you may be better served by pursuing a different platform or medium. There are many alternatives to H-Net, and some of these can offer more individual authorial freedom, larger, greater aesthetic flexibility, and enhanced abilities to hide discussion from unwanted eyes, and either less specialized publics or more exclusive communities. In particular, H-Net networks are not designed for and/or our culture tends not to support:

  • Promotional activities oriented around a single publication or project.
  • The privileging of a single organization within a larger field of study.
  • The ability to circulate content without editorial oversight.
  • The ability to curate and police a personal audience.
  • Debate and discussion untethered from academic standards and reliable information.
  • The ability to customize a website’s design based on templates.

What we offer is valuable, but especially so in specific intellectual and professional contexts. It is important to us that all interested parties understand this so they can best appraise where best to invest their energies. We should also note that many H-Net networks engage with multiple platforms and media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and Wikipedia, so we do not present a strict us-or-them choice. Still, we want to stress what we do and do not focus on in terms of our own functionality, guidelines, and culture.

The Proposal Process
The creation of a network follows a straightforward process:

  1. Submission of a concept and mission statement to the H-Net Council. The prospective network sponsor or lead editor prepares a concept statement briefly describing the network, its intended audience, and editorial rationale. If the Council approves of this statement, then a regular and more detailed proposal must be prepared. The proposal can be submitted through the Network Application Page. Approval of the proposal by the Council authorizes the H-Net staff to work with the applicants to flesh out the plan, recruit a team of editors and board, and detail the network's technical specifications.

  2. Final Network Plan: The applicant works with the H-Net staff to create a plan to be submitted to the Council; once approved, the editors can be trained and the network prepared for launch. The plan comprises several elements:
  • Nomination materials for editor and board certification. These are prepared and submitted through the nominations page.
  • Network configuration plan. The applicant works with the H-Net staff to create the network's informational files - descriptive texts and resource links.
  • Refined network mission statement and staffing list. The applicant refines the mission statement so that it will be suitable for inclusion on the network's Commons pages. The proposal also identifies online editors, book review editors, and advisory board members. When considering the proposal, the Council consults with the editors of affected networks and other specialists as necessary.
  • Training of editors to ensure familiarity with the programs used for network communications.
  • Testing and launch of the network.


Overview of the New Network Proposal Process

Contact the Associate Director of Networks at any point during the process with your questions.

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