Monday, July 29, 2013

American Historical Association Seeks Embargo on Posting Dissertations

I caught this story last week when the AHA blog post was aggregated at Memeorandum.

See, "American Historical Association Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations."

I don't know. Thinking hard I can see the logic, but surely the first casual thought of most observers would be, "Gawd, how freakin' lame."

But what really caught my attention was this passage at the post: is not unusual for an early-career historian to spend five or six years revising a dissertation and preparing the manuscript for submission to a press for consideration. During that period, the scholar typically builds on the raw material presented in the dissertation, refines the argument, and improves the presentation itself. Thus, although there is so close a relationship between the dissertation and the book that presses often consider them competitors, the book is the measure of scholarly competence used by tenure committees.
All true, of course. But when I finished my dissertation I just wanted to breathe a long sigh of relief. The thought of revising the whole thing for publication was very unappealing. I'd started teaching as an adjunct professor at Fresno State in 2000, so I had some expectation for publishing, but then I took my job at Long Beach Community College and there wasn't going to be any "publish or perish" pressures, which I didn't mind. (Or, I was actually kind of torn about it, at least at first.)

Now, though, I both cringe and laugh at the thought of spending "five or six years revising a dissertation..."

In any case, more on this at the Chronicle of Higher Ed, "Scholarly Group Seeks Up to 6-Year Embargoes on Digital Dissertations."

And even the New York Times deigns to chime in, "Historians Seek a Delay in Posting Dissertations."