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P r e s i d e n t i a l   N o t e


by Paul Turnbull [Paul.Turnbull@ANU.EDU.AU], President, H-Net

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 schools.

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.

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