Notes toward a Bizarro World AHA Dissertation Open Access Statement

Bizarrow World AHA is totally into Open Access
Bizarro World AHA would be totally into Open Access

The American Historical Association published a Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations. I found myself wishing that there was some kind of bizaro world AHA. I imagine this bizarro world AHA might have made remarks based on these bullet points. These are just a rough draft. I encourage others to refine and further develop them.

  1. Assert that the scholarly society’s goals are for the proliferation of knowledge not the proliferation of a particular kind of media (like monographs) or a particular business model (like selling academic monographs, primarily to university libraries).
  2. Thank doctoral students who have made their dissertations accessible to anyone for supporting the value of sharing their research.
  3. Note that dissertations are fundamentally different than the books a university press might edit, develop and revise based on them. Beyond that, assert that open access to dissertations in no way compete with books that are developed from dissertations.
  4. Explain that the scholarly society would speak out against publishers who decided to blackball scholars who had made their dissertations publicly accessible through their universities repositories.
  5. Suggest that it is fundamentally problematic that the tenure and promotion of historians is based directly on the commercial viability of academic books. Where scholars in other disciplines often control the primary means of tenure (journal articles) in fields like history that rely on book publication those decisions are (in large part) made by academic presses.
  6. Call for members of the association to explore, and encourage the development of new models for the review and evaluation of a wide range of historical work, particularly those that make scholarship as widely accessible as possible.
  7. Note that it is a fundamental problem that career development for historians in the academy is focused on the production of books that are read by few people and encourage the community of historians to refocus their energy on how they can produce historical work that people will read and can have an impact on society.