April 9, 2004
a local open-access journal
Here's an idea that some colleagues and I are going to try to promote at the University of Maryland. The University (or perhaps the University and Prince George's County, where we are located) would launch a peer-reviewed journal for high-quality research on the community. Anyone would be eligible to submit articles, maps, datasets, and images, but submissions would be peer-reviewed and publication standards would be high. The central administration of the University would promote the journal as a prestigious publication venue for faculty. Although this website would not have the status of a major disciplinary journal, its quality would be high and it would advance several core purposes for the University (see below). Therefore, the central administration would ask departments to treat it as the equivalent of high-status specialized publications for tenure and promotion purposes.
In order to increase the value of the publication for community residents, it could be linked to a website that also provided: research summaries written for lay audiences (perhaps in Spanish as well as English); basic information about the County; links to other online resources; and open forums for public discussion.
Universities are experimenting with new forms of free, open-access digital publication, motivated by the soaring costs of journal subscriptions and the enormous positive potential of free, online publishing. For example, the University of California has created the exemplary California Digital Library, and MIT provides its course materials free for the world to use, gambling that this giveaway of high-quality material will enhance its reputation. To the best of our knowledge, no other university has developed a free online publication focused on its own community, and this could become a model.
Any group that was involved in establishing this journal would need to discuss and answer the following questions:
What is the geographical scope: Prince George’s County; the Washington Metro area, or the State of Maryland?
What is the disciplinary reach: The social sciences? The social sciences and the humanities? All the liberal arts? The liberal arts and the fine arts?