Open Access, H-Net and Mission-Driven Alliances

Randolph Hollingsworth (she/her) Blog Post

One of the (many) exciting parts of participating in the H-Commons is to be able to share and re-use scholarly communications across networks and with multiple formats. H-Net, in its new platform, continues to find connections across borders normally assigned to professional organizations eager to stake their claims in contested areas of intellectual inquiry. This effort contributes to a primary goal of all scholarly institutions: to support the creation of new knowledge, distribute it in an intentional and ethical way by which communities near and far may learn how to make the world a better place. Sometimes this means we seek to break down traditional silos between discipline-based cadres and try on new identities, speak a different language, or see from previously unexplored perspectives.

In their white paper "A Scalable and Sustainable Approach to Open Access Publishing and Archiving for Humanities and Social Sciences" (2014), Rebecca Kennison and Lisa Norberg present a model of collaboration that offers libraries, university presses and research institutions a way to publish in the open and sustain those archives for generations to come. These two scholars from Barnard College and Columbia University offer their model in the hope that readers agree with their basic premise about the inherent value for research in the humanities and social sciences.

Few will question the societal benefit of providing wider access to research that could help citizens make informed decisions about their health care or enable a small business to innovate and help fuel the economy, but an equally compelling case can be made for providing access to political or policy research that improves the effectiveness of an NGO working in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or literacy criticism on the works of Alice Munro or Edwidge Danticat that inspires students at an under-resourced high school. Restricting access to research benefits no one and runs counter to the stated mission of educational and not-for-profit instituions. (Kennison and Norberg, 15)

Kennison and Norberg remind all of us in scholarly organizations -- including H-Net with networks of all shapes and sizes -- to examine and articulate our shared mission.

Currently the H-Net Executive Council is undergoing this challenge and is developing a new strategic plan. Soon, this draft document will be brought to all the H-Net editors (via the H-Staff network) for continued dialog and revision. The Council seeks for input on best practices in open access processes as well as with maintaining high quality standards in scholarly publications in H-Net networks. Should H-Net support new archival endeavors such as open reviews of works-in-progress (not just already published works)? Should H-Net continue to expand its partnerships with book publishing companies, continuing to seek those uncharted waters of digital publishing for scholars? What does an active advisory board for an H-Net network look like - what should these key stakeholders do to support their network's staff? How might the audio podcasts of those scholars contributing to H-Reviews impact the channels of distribution and engender new insights with young scholars? How might the traditional role of the H-Net editor be reconstructed (or unbundled) to allow for scalability and diversity -- important components for success in a global community. These are just some of the issues being discussed as we continue to shape the alliances within and outside the H-Net community.

I encourage the widest distribution of this draft strategic plan and a vigorous discussion worthy of the thousands of scholars across the world brought together by and across the H-Net networks.

Randolph Hollingsworth, Ph.D.
University of Kentucky
H-Kentucky Network Editor and H-Net President