Bibliometry and Open Access in the Humanities

From my buddy Jonas Nordin, retiring head editor of Sweden’s main historical journal, a well-argued paper about the problems of applying bibliometric assessments and Open Access practices in the humanities.

Historisk tidskrift, present and future

Reflections on readers’ reactions, bibliometrics and Open Access

In this article the author recounts his experiences as editor of Historisk tidskrift. The starting point is a poll of the journal’s readers presented at the triannual meeting of the Swedish Historical Association in Lund in April 2008. Readers told that they read Historisk tidskrift primarily in order to be up to date on Swedish historical research. The journal reflects fairly well the research interests of Swedish historians. However, concerns for the need to internationalise research and to improve one’s qualifications increasingly govern how Swedish historians publish. This affects the attitude to Historisk tidskrift, which is regarded as too provincial. These and other issues are discussed by the author.

The second part of the article discusses two partly intertwined issues of significance to the journal’s future: Bibliometrics and Open Access. The author is sceptical about bibliometric analyses and points to methodological difficulties in applying such measures to the humanities. Nevertheless, Historisk tidskrift will have to take bibliometrics into account. The author is favourably disposed towards Open Access. However, several problems need to be solved before Historisk tidskrift can become a full Open Access journal. If the journal loses its subscribers, alternative sources of funds has to be found to pay for editorial work. Before this is done, the present form of publication has to be retained.

Full text on-line.


8 thoughts on “Bibliometry and Open Access in the Humanities

  1. Nordin was kind enough to email me his editorial and article about a week ago and I finished reading them yesterday. It was the most blood curling texts I’ve read in a long time. It is high time we started taking the debate on this before its too late, and I for one hope Nordin writes a piece both for main stream media, and an english version for the international readership.


  2. As an impoverished archaeologist on the wrong side of the academic firewall, I naturally resent having to buy information, which is available free to most of my colleagues.

    However, until we have sorted out these underlying issues in publishing, there is no obvious way forward; who ever bares the cost of editing and production, will seek to recover those costs from readers, regarless of the media format.

    Like most aspects of life – “you get what you pay for”.


  3. Åsa, Jonas wrote his piece before ERIH announced that they’re skipping the A-B-C grades. But the list itself is still there, which means that journals are still graded into two categories: ona dn off the list.

    Geoff, in the Swedish humanities, paper journals are quite astonishingly cheap compared to international journals in the natural sciences. But of course everything funded by the public should be freely available on th web in this day and age.


  4. Martin: If anything Nordin’s article showed that the decision by ERIH to drop the grades is not nearly enough to adress the problems with bibliometry and the Social Sciences and Humanities. Quite frankly, I was shocked to realize how much of this is both ad hoc, and blindly following traditions possibly suitable for the natural sciences but hardly for the others. We are not dependent on international publication in the same manner, and an article or book written 20 years ago can suddenly become the most important text to read – unlike the natural sciences where many results are old after 12 months.


  5. There’s so much free trash out there on the internet, I would dearly love to be able to afford even a tenth of the C-grade journals in the humanities in such provincial publications, if I knew what they all were — and could read Swedish half as well as I read German. But I don’t know how to get them, can’t pay for them, don’t read Swedish well enough. So there you go. What’s wrong with public access for quality things anyway? I’m forever running into roadblocks, articles that are theoretically available through the local university — but not actually there; things available through JSTOR at a price just above what I can afford; things I can only get the abstract to; or something in a language I have a dictionary for but only a second grader’s knowledge of the grammar for, so I can’t understand what I read. What’s an old lady stuck in the back of beyond (Texas) to do? Just die of old age and frustration, in the information era?


  6. It’s just sad. I’ve applied for several jobs where an important reason for not getting them was that my field isn’t international enough. Like, “Hello, how many Japanese universitites do you think have research programmes on Vendel Period Östergötland?”


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