Given this first H-Net Newsletter comes near the end of my term as
President, it seems best to say something about the progress we are making
towards the strategic goals agreed upon by H-Net Council when we met over
two days in January 2001.
One goal we have been working towards is greater support for teaching and
learning. The H-Net Teaching Committee, chaired by Steven Mintz, recently
recommended the establishment of a unique on-line journal. This journal
will capitalize on the intellectual strengths of our many editors and
subscribers worldwide, and of course the virtues of the network
environment for speedy publication, to create a "free to view" peer
reviewed journal offering issues comprised of thematically focused essays
and reflections on issues of relevance to teachers in universities and
When writing about H-Net on-publication, I'm tempted to put parentheses
around words like "journal" and "issues". This is because the established
nomenclature of print-based scholarly publishing doesn't always adequately
describe the modes of scholarly communication that are emerging as new
communication technologies become more integrated into the fabric of
scholarly life. For perhaps the most exciting dimension to my serving as
H-Net President has been the sense of excitement about what will soon be
possible as stable, internationally recognized standards for information
interchange mature. That said, excitement has been tempered by caution,
especially in the light of the failure of several large-scale on-line
educational ventures over the past year.
One of the real strengths of H-Net is the wisdom and creativity of its
members, and listening to them has made the H-Net Council take a cautious
approach to developing on-line publication facilities. The H-Net
Publications Committee, lead by Jim Neissen, has focused on determining
what is required to ensure high editorial standards. The International
committee has likewise sought to identify how H-Net can best present
information in ways that meet the needs of networks serving scholarly
communities with particular linguistic and cultural aspirations.
H-Net Council moreover has spent a good deal of time discussing what might
be the best model for funding the development of new on-line initiatives
so that they are freely available via the World-Wide Web, and are offered
in forms that ensure they can be used by people with quite basic levels of
equipment and connectivity.
Finally, under the direction of our Executive Director, Professor Mark
Kornbluh, our small team of technical staff have spent a great deal of
time and energy on working out how these aspirations can be supported by
programming and schema for the encoding and description of scholarly
materials in digital forms. They have done a magnificent job, and deserve
our heart-felt thanks.
By early next year we should see the launch of publication facilities for
H-Net networks which will keep pace with our growth and ensure that the
growing wealth of information H-Net offers the world can be migrated to
new modes of presentation for the foreseeable future.