I am grateful to Newton Key for nominating me as Vice President for Research and Publications. According to our constitution, this means that if elected, I "will chair the Publications Committee and will be responsible for formulating policies and projects for H-Net publications, including reviews, and submitting these to the Council on behalf of his or her committee." I shall also serve on Council. The Publications Committee (which as I understand it is effectively Plan-Review) "will coordinate and assist in the recruitment and training of review editors, and advise the Council on matters relating to research and publications, including reviews, within H-Net."
At this point in time, I see my primary roles as Vice President for Research and Publications as facilitating communication and providing oversight. H-Reviews has been enormously successful (with almost 1,000 reviews already logged by 56 discrete lists in 2006) and has in some ways become a victim of its own success. Review editors have accomplished amazing feats, in collaboration with H-Net staff, and everyone wants that collaboration, and that level of achievement, to continue. Yet it would be foolish to deny that there is a wellspring of discontent among some review editors, on various issues, which needs to be addressed in some form. This is my understanding of the role I have accepted nomination to fill, not that I _solve_ the problems necessarily, although solutions will always be sought, but that I take them seriously, communicate about them effectively, and think about them realistically.
Thus, my primary goal is to inculcate effective communication and problem-solving. If "X" is our issue, then what are the limitations under which we operate and how do we do better? What assumptions are we working under, and how do we challenge them? What can we do to make what we have work better, and when necessary, what steps can we take to secure judicious replacement of defunct or non-functioning elements of our operation?
I work from the assumption that we are all engaged in a collaborative enterprise, whichever country we are in, and wherever in the H-Net organization we function. I think that communication does sometimes fail, and e-mail is by no means the best medium for interpersonal communications, but we all devote countless hours (for free) to this, and we all want to make it work. What remains is to determine _how_ we might make it work better.
Should I be fortunate enough to be elected as Vice-President for Research and Publications, my first agenda item will be to reconnect with the review editing community. E-Review is a relatively active list, but still, of its 248 members, only a small percentage regularly participate in discussions. I want to know how the silent majority sees H-Reviews, its issues, its strengths and weaknesses, and its future. I hope that from that conversation will emerge a much richer and more complete understanding of what we are about and how we might improve it.
As I said above, I regard the role of VPP as one of oversight as well, of the entire reviews operation. We operate in a distributed fashion, but there is a connective thread that runs through what we do. An H-Net Review is a branded product that derives at least part of its value from the strength of the whole. Over the years we have developed various ways of doing things that work both to streamline production and to strengthen the brand. Maybe some of them could stand to be changed, and I am open to that dialogue, but the "H-NET REVIEW" at the top of your posting means something, and it is important that we are all swimming in the same direction. At the same time, that oversight extends to H-Reviews itself, to the various "pipelines" through which we shuttle our product. Both sides--H-Reviews and the lists--are co-equal partners in this enterprise, both have responsibilities and obligations, and only if both sides meet them can we prosper.
For those of you who don't know me, I became H-South's Review Editor in early 2000 and since that time I have worked to craft an interactive review project, something for which I drew inspiration from H-SHEAR, among others. H-South publishes a relatively small number of reviews per month, but in every practical case we invite a roundtable style response from the author of the work. Sometimes this sparks effective list discussion, and I know from the testimonials of many of our subscribers that what we do is a valuable part of their daily professional life. We offer a service that is found in few other places, and we are proud to do so.
I also was one of the inaugural list editors for H-Nationalism in the Spring of 2006 and at approximately the same time I became the interim editor of Plan-Review and E-Review. I have been a member of the H-Reviews Advisory Board since its inception and a member of the Networks Committee since early 2006. Since May 2006 I have worked with a sub-committee of my Plan-Review colleagues to revise the H-Reviews style sheet and I have been an active participant in debates on these lists, as well as others.
I have been with H-Net as a graduate student, as an adjunct professor, and now as a tenure-track member of a faculty. I have been a review editor for over six years, and more recently a list editor and web editor. My professional identity has been formed in and around my involvement with H-Net ever since just after I passed my comprehensive exams. In the past two years my involvement in the "inner workings" of H-Net has expanded greatly and I believe that I have formed productive and collegial relationship with both H-Net executive staff and list editors from various disciplines, many of whom I have yet to meet in person.
Finally, I stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before, especially Jim Niessen, the outgoing Vice President for Research and Publications. According to the E-Review logs, Jim was asked to chair the then H-Net Review Committee in July 1997, and he is H-Net's first, and so far only, Vice-President for Research and Publications, holding office (and thus being successfully re-elected twice) since the position was created by the new constitution in 2000. Point being, when Jim's term in office ends at New Year he will be just six months short of a full decade as leader of H-Net Reviews. Reading the E-Review logs, as I did the other evening, gives full testimony to the drive and dedication of Jim Niessen in the early days of H-Net and throughout its period of more recent maturity.
I am an H-Net neophyte compared to Jim, and I recognize and salute his many and varied contributions to H-Reviews and to H-Net more generally. Without his efforts, much that we enjoy today would not have been so fruitful. I hope he will remain an active member of the reviews community, whoever replaces him.
In all honesty, there is much yet for me to learn about H-Reviews, however long I may have been involved in it. Undoubtedly much of what I think I know could stand to be modified. So, I pledge to be ever open to new ideas, to be committed to open channels of communication, and to be resolved to work to the best of my ability in service of H-Net and its various communities.