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Thursday, May 27, 2004
 
What is "Open Scholarship"?

I think in some ways our flurry of posts on Open Scholarship (see below) has started from the wrong place. We need first to define what we mean by the term, else our discussion is liable to run at a variety of tangents.

So, here is what I mean by Open Scholarship - with a bias towards Open Biblical Scholarship. Open Scholarship is "open" and it must be "“scholarly" if one or other of these are missing the wrong term is being used!

Much current scholarship is not "“open" in the sense that large numbers of potential scholars cannot interact with it. (Or such interaction is restricted in some way.)

The most obvious such restriction is that even in the West our libraries can no longer carry everything. Open Scholarship could use electronic media to be effectively ubiquitous. But worse, much current scholarship excludes scholars from majority world contexts through its cost. With the price of monographs from Brill or even SAP how many will a University library in Africa (excluding South Africa) be able to afford?

Print - which began by opening scholarship to the masses in new and frightening ways– has now become a means-test barring the majority of humans from full participation!
Open Scholarship will not be scholarship as a means-tested closed membership club for the rich world.

However, anything which deserves the name Open Biblical Scholarship must be "scholarly".

It must not merely deal with a biblical studies topic, but also be of recognisable (and therefore probably recognised) value. Scholarly publication differs from other sorts of publication in two main ways. First it is addressed to a community of scholars, but second it has been selected and approved in some recognized way - usually peer review. Open Biblical Scholarship must address this issue before it can lay claim to the name. The only projects we’ve discussed so far that meet this criterion are the two journals Journal of Biblical Studies and Journal of Hebrew Scriptures. Stephen C. Carlson argues that JBS seems to be failing because it has not attracted enough good quality contributions. My impression is that JHS by contrast is succeeding according to this measure.
What is the difference? I suspect it is found precisely in the area of peer-review. JHS has chosen not to publish more contributions than JBS has, therefore it is perceived as a “better” place to publish, and therefore it (now) receives more good quality submissions…. (Stephen seems to agree with this to some extent - see his reply to my comment on his post.)

The problem is not so much the medium as the messages!



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