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 scores of 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 receive tens of thousands of web visits every year and have thousands of subscribers who receive our content through daily email notifications. 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.
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 editors 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 stumbling across them.
- Focus on intrinsic academic value and the common good of their field of study.
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, greater aesthetic flexibility, 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
H-Net maintains a standard two-step proposal process that centers on our Executive Council and Officers (H-Net Council, for short). H-Net Council is composed of fellow H-Net editors and board members currently active at our various networks and selected through annual elections. H-Net Council does, as is within its authority, reject some new network proposals. In other cases, H-Net Council may request clarification about proposed networks before voting on them. If you want additional guidance at this stage, please feel welcomed to email our Vice President of Networks (firstname.lastname@example.org) and our Associate Director of Networks (email@example.com). We recommend reading our main Join H-Net page and browsing our existing networks before applying to launch a new network. H-Net policies require that all new networks have at least five editors, at least two of whom should be network editors. These policies also require that new networks have at least three advisory board members. At the initial “pre-approval stage,” you only need four field specialists who have agreed to serve in some of these capacities.
If you are proposing a new network that you intend to be affiliated with an external scholarly society, please keep the following points in mind:
- H-Net networks are the legal property of H-Net. We do not harness our networks for revenue and we encourage the free circulation of information.
- H-Net networks are subject to oversight by H-Net Council even when affiliated with external organizations and need to operate within H-Net policies, including our Executive Council Policies and By-Laws.
- Individual H-Net networks are not themselves legally licensed non-profit organizations and cannot transact financial business.
- H-Net considers its networks permanent in nature and will not close a network down at the request of an affiliated scholarly society.
- A majority of either the editors or advisory board members of an H-Net network cannot currently be serving as officers or elected officials of the same external scholarly society.
Step 1: The Pre-Approval Form
The initial “pre-approval” stage requires a concept and mission statement. We recommend that at this provisional stage you have at least three fellow academics who are committed to serving on your proposed networks’ editorial team. At the moment that you recruit these individuals, we suggest that you confer with them about their competing time commitments and exact role at the network. You can find some more detailed information about the editorial roles at H-Net networks (Network Editors, Review Editors, and Advisory Board Members) at the top of our Join H-Net page. The webform below allows you to upload your Pre-Approval Form. We recommend drafting your text in a word processing program and saving a copy before submitting. This form goes to H-Net’s Vice President of Networks, who reviews it and then either contacts the proposers with additional questions or sends it on to H-Net Council for consideration. If H-Net Council votes in favor of your Pre-Approval Questionnaire responses, the proposers will then go through H-Net’s formal editor application and training processes for their various positions. H-Net’s staff can walk each member of your original team through this process. As your team works on its training material, it should begin drafting a Final Network Plan.
Step 2: Final Network Plan
As your preliminary editorial team works on its training material, it should also begin drafting a Final Network Plan. The Final Network Plan form will ask you to identify the remaining members of the network’s editorial team, outline some projects for the network, and provide a formal statement that will appear as the network’s welcome message. If H-Net Council approves the Final Network Plan, the proposed network will launch as soon as the final members of the network’s editorial team complete their training. As with the Pre-Approval Questionnaire, we recommend drafting your responses to the below form in a word processing program and saving a copy for your own files.