Editorial — Blurring some boundaries

Judith Winters *

Cite this as: Winters, J. 2010 Editorial — Blurring some boundaries, Internet Archaeology 28.

Having stepped out of my shoes for 9 months (another baby boy) and stepped back into them again in July, I found that they still fitted! Thank you to Zoe Devlin who so ably covered for me.

I am pleased to close this issue with the second LEAP II exemplar article by Karen Holmberg on the context of pre-Columbian objects (gold, ceramics, and stone artefacts) from the Chiriquí region of western Panamá, where vast quantities of such artefacts were removed in the late 19th century with the result that the sites they came from were effectively erased from the landscape. Drawing from imprecise sources of information, possible locations for looted sites are extrapolated and mapped in an online GIS.

The article also marks the start of the journal's collaboration with the Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR) repository, overseen and maintained by Digital Antiquity at Arizona State University. The data that underpins the Holmberg article is available for download via the tDAR repository along with associated images and documents. We've taken the 'integrated publication' approach, which we developed with ADS in the original LEAP project, and have shown that it can be just as easily deployed with other digital repositories. Hopefully this will open up other collaborative opportunities between Internet Archaeology and long-term digital initiatives around the world. The LEAP projects have always been about blurring the boundaries between publication and archive and the different/better understanding that occurs as a result. Now we're blurring a few international boundaries too!

As with the first LEAP II exemplar by Galaty et al., an online comments facility has been setup to run alongside the Holmberg article and at the time of writing, users have already added lengthy comments to the discussion started by the author. These comments will remain permanently associated with the article, and their inclusion transforms sections of the article into something more like a blog. The comments facility has potential well beyond the lifecycle of the LEAP II project and will almost certainly become a permanent feature for articles in the future. But in so declaring, I quietly acknowledge that the intarch-interest email list has probably served its time as a forum for readers to comment on journal content. It was set up in 1997 with the intention that it was somewhere for readers to give feedback and comment on articles. But as an email list (which people had to join), it lacked the element of immediacy and was too far removed from the content it was intended to serve. Its fairly low usage may have been a product of something even more fundamental — a combination of new medium and an awkwardness over committing thoughts to so public a forum (the private/public, offline/online boundaries). There were occasional moments of real debate and activity however, most notably regarding our introduction of subscriptions, but the list was mainly used by the journal to make journal announcements. It will remain a forum for such promotion along with our newly launched Twitter feed, but I suspect its days as an active discussion arena are probably over.

The Holmberg article was also made freely available to users accessing it via the .pa (Panama) top-level domain. Add to this the success of the JISC licence which currently sees Internet Archaeology content free at the point of use for 114 Higher and Further Education institutions in the UK, Open Access (OA) is a little closer. Interestingly only 28% of these same institutions had been paying a subscription before the licence was introduced. This very clearly demonstrates the value for money JISC obtained on this community's behalf.

Issue 28 does however see two articles that provided a complete subvention enabling them to be Open Access: 'Iron Age Settlement at Blackstone, Worcestershire: Excavations 1972, 1973, and 1977' by Hurst et al. and 'To Block Lift or not to Block Lift? An Experiment at the Early Mesolithic Site of Star Carr, North-East Yorkshire, UK' by Hadley et al. I acknowledge with gratitude the respective grants from English Heritage and the Department of Archaeology at the University of York that made OA possible for these articles, and they add support to Internet Archaeology's position as a hybrid OA journal. 'Iron Age Hillforts and Defended Enclosures in Southwest Wales' by Murphy and Murphy was part-funded by a grant from CADW while 'A New Tool for Zooarchaeological Analysis: ArcGIS Skeletal Templates for Some Common Mammalian Species' by Orton came with no funding at all. But both are available for a very reasonable subscription of £12.50 ($20/€15) for individuals.

Open Access is very slowly starting to catch on in our field (it is of course well embedded in the STM field, see Peter Suber's thoughtful discussion on why the Arts and Humanities field has been slower to embrace it) but 'culture change' is still needed to encourage authors (or rather their research grant body or employer) to pay for publication costs. Many foundations and institutions are increasingly willing to pay such fees and certainly university libraries all over the globe are establishing OA publishing funds (e.g. The University of Nottingham in the UK [PDF]) and several others have announced their own OA mandate (e.g. the universities of Stirling and Southampton). However, authors still need to build publication costs into their funding/research bids in the first place. All too often the outputs of research (and their costs) are given little thought at the bidding phase. But if such costs are not factored in at the start, it is almost impossible to recover them later. This to me seems to be the journal's biggest hurdle in the move to Open Access. But blurring the boundary that exists between a researcher and an approachable editor is all that's needed!

Back to Issue 28


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