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Publishing Cliodynamics: the Journal Cooperatively

I recently published another issue of Cliodynamics – Vol. 4, issue 1. Overall, it’s the sixth issue. Hard to believe.

We started the journal three years ago. At that point it was not clear whether it would succeed. I polled a bunch of colleagues, and most were very supportive, so off we went. Many of these excellent and accomplished scientists agreed to serve on the board of editors (and it’s quite an illustrious board, take a look here).

The main motivation for launching the journal was the realization that if we want Cliodynamics to become an established scientific field, then having a journal is a must. Three years ago it was not clear whether the field was mature enough to have its own journal, but experience has shown that the timing was right. You don’t want to wait too long either, because having your own journal works synergistically with advancing the field.

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It’s interesting to compare Cliodynamics with another new field, Anthropometric History. Anthropometrics is a branch of New Economic History. The three most influential scientists in the field are Robert Fogel, John Komlos, and Richard Steckel, who started using population heights as a proxy for biological well-being in the mid-1970s. The name, Anthropometric History, was apparently coined by John Komlos in 1989. Komlos also was the founding editor of the main journal in the field, Economics and Human Biology, which was launched in 2003. Today Anthropometric History is a highly respectable field, with dozens of active researchers and hundreds (at least) more historians, economists, anthropologists, and other social scientists following it avidly. (I’ll have to write another blog about this wonderful research direction in the future).

We are, of course, much younger. I proposed the name, ‘Cliodynamics,’ only ten years ago (in Historical Dynamics, published by Princeton University Press in 2003). We’ve come a long way in just 10 years. Of course, Cliodynamics has a broader scope and more ambitious goals than Anthropometrics, but there are dangers in that, too.

Another difference is that we are living in a new age, resulting from the rapid advances in computers and communication tech. When John Komlos launched his journal, he chose to go with Elsevier (ugh), although he probably did not have much choice but to deal with the ‘greedy publishers’ (see my previous blogs on this). By the time I was seriously contemplating launching the journal, it was clear that the way of the future was the open-access online journals. Developments during the last three years have done nothing to disabuse me of this notion.

We publish Cliodynamics with eScholarship, which is a project of the California Digital Library, itself part of the University of California system. This means that we have a stable URL. No matter what happens to any individuals, including myself, the published journal issues will be secure and accessible until the end of days (or until California slides into the Pacific Ocean, whichever comes first).

This is a very important reason to go with a service like eScholarship. We all know that web sites come and go (and there are a lot of broken links, as a result). A stable, guaranteed URL is important.

eScholarship was developed to serve the University of California community, while I am at the University of Connecticut. Fortunately, the Cliodynamics community has a very strong presence in California. I am extremely grateful to two dear colleagues. Doug White was the one who introduced me to the idea of publishing with eScholarship (and was a pioneer with his excellent journal, Structure and Dynamics: eJournal of Anthropological and Related Sciences). Chris Chase-Dunn has graciously agreed to sponsor Cliodynamics through his Institute for Research on World-Systems at UC Riverside.

Cliodynamics is a web-based/free-access journal. It’s free for readers to read and download, and it’s free for authors to publish (authors retain the copyright to their articles). So who pays to have it produced? Nobody. It’s a wholly cooperative project driven entirely by volunteer labor. No dollars are involved (many thanks to eScholarship – this is a truly prosocial thing, providing institutional infrastructure that makes it all possible). First, authors write their articles (for free). Then, reviewers assess them and make recommendations, without being paid. Members of the editorial board serve in a variety of roles: they submit articles, review them, and advise the editor-in-chief on strategic issues. And of course, the editor-in-chief (yours truly) does a lot of work coordinating all those efforts and being responsible for everything running smoothly.

This last factor, that everything depends too much on me, is actually something I worry about. If I were to drop dead tomorrow, then the journal would probably stop being published (but the published articles would continue to be available in perpetuity, don’t forget those stable URLs). This is not ideal situation, and I hope (in fact, I am sure) that we will eventually develop to the point where this operation will not depend on a single individual so much. But in some ways this state of things is inevitable. Many cooperative projects that get started from the bottom up initially depend on one individual serving as a precipitating agent (a seed in crystal formation). This topic, cooperation from the bottom up, has been much on my mind in the last couple of months, so expect a series of blogs on it (real soon now).

In any case, here is the table of contents of the last issue of Cliodynamics. Lots of interesting articles in it, and I will blog about some of them in a few days.

Current Issue, Volume 4, Issue 1, 2013

Editor’s Column

An Issue Devoted to Dialogue
Turchin, Peter


Was Wealth Really Determined in 8000 BCE, 1000 BCE, 0 CE, or Even 1500 CE?
Thompson, William R; Sakuwa, Kentaro


Indo-Europeans Were the Most Historically Significant Nomads of the Steppes
Duchesne, Ricardo

The Actual Achievements of Early Indo-Europeans, in Accurate Historical Context
Beckwith, Christopher I

The Origins of Western Superiority: A comment on Modes of Meta-History and Duchesne’s Indo-Europeans Article
Goldstone, Jack A

The West and the Rest: The Science of the Great Divergence
Turchin, Peter

The Uniqueness of the West Reinforced: A Reply to Beckwith, Goldstone, and Turchin
Duchesne, Ricardo

Social Evolution Forum

Human Cultures are Primarily Adaptive at the Group Level (with comment)
Wilson, David Sloan

Human Cooperation is a Complex Problem with Many Possible Solutions: Perhaps All of Them Are True!
Richerson, Peter J

Book Reviews

Inequality and Institutions: A Review Essay on Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson
Currie, Thomas E

Correlates of Objective Historiography: A Review Essay on Hierarchy, History, and Human Nature by Donald E. Brown
Scupin, Raymond

Reflections on Violence in the Spanish Borderlands: A Review Essay on Chiricahua and Janos by Lance R. Blyth
Hall, Thomas D



A note added on 9.VIII.2013: I changed the title and added an explicit note of thanks to eScholarship that made publishing Cliodynamics possible


Join the discussion


  1. Alan Honick says:

    Peter, in the recent issue of JEBO “Evolution as a General Theoretical Framework for Economics and Public Policy”, the papers were directly downloadable in ebook formats. It’s an incredibly cool and convenient option for Kindle addicts. Might such a thing be possible with Cliodynamics in the future? There are ways of converting the PDFs, but I haven’t found one that doesn’t screw up the formatting.

    • Alan Honick says:

      I spoke too soon; just tried Amazon’s pdf-ebook conversion service, and it worked! Must be that the PDFs from your publisher are well formatted to begin with. In any case, I look forward to reading this issue; many interesting papers. Thanks!

  2. Igor Demić says:

    Maybe it’s something you already use, but I’ll mention it anyway. There is a conversion software called Calibre. You can use it to convert a dozen of formats to most of the e-book formats used by e-book readers. You can even set the conversion to optimize the file to the particular type of Kindle you use.
    Concerning the new issue, I’m checking the site every now and then, lately almost every day. So I downloaded it the day it was published. I managed to browse it. As always the topics of the papers have given me the thrill, and the will to keep studying social evolution, even if only as an amateur. Great idea to make it open access.

    • Alan Honick says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve tried Calibre, with mixed results, and found Amazon’s own conversion service easier to use.

      I’m in total agreement about open access, and am grateful that Cliodynamics is being published that way. As an independent researcher with no University affiliation, I am often stopped short at the $32 fees for a single paper! I’ve often wondered if any fraction of these exorbitant fees actually goes to the authors, or the entire amount to the greedy publishers, who have set themselves up as the gatekeepers (and rent seekers) of knowledge.

      • O.Voron says:

        Rent seekers of knowledge, exactly! As Turchin said in a previous blog Elsevier offers to pay $100 for the work. Mindboggling amount… A plumber gets as much for an hour work. So authors get peanuts if anything at all.

      • Peter Turchin says:

        I’ve never received a single penny for any of my articles. I think this answers your question.

  3. dantae says:

    Peter–thanks to you and the rest of the group for your volunteer efforts. I wish more journals were run this way.

    Two minor suggestions:
    -EndNote has a feature to quickly retrieve and attach fulltext PDFs files to its records (“Find Fulltext”). I’m not sure how the backend of the feature actually works, but it does not seem to be connected to your journal. I hope it can be before too long.

    – I find the the cover page to the PDFs of articles in your journal annoying. The don’t provide me with any additional information of value that I can discern (and if they do, this could easily be placed on the 2nd page instead). I suspect they promote a lot of wasted paper when people print articles from the PDF. Since I have acrobat pro, I just delete this page when saving it on my computer.

    • Peter Turchin says:

      I do to, and I have tried – in vain – to get eScholarship to abolish these stupid cover pages. But think about it this way – getting stuck with a cover page is what you usually have to endure. Science does it, JSTOR does it, and so on. Like you, I usually delete those pages before storing them in Endnote.

      I am not sure what your suggestion is about how to connect my journal to Endnote. Is there an automatic way of doing so?

      • dantae says:

        Thanks for trying on the silly cover page issue.

        I’m not sure how the backend of the EndNote “Find Full Text” feature works, but did a little googling and found this:
        link to

        I’m guessing eScholarship needs to either be listed in one the databases listed in the PDF above or perhaps modify the way it enters its pubs DOIs.


  4. Peter Turchin says:

    I have been preoccupied with other things (trying to finish the draft of Structural Demographic Analysis of American History), so let me try to reply to these comments in one fell swoop. When we launched Cliodynamics, I formatted the pages so that one could print two of them side by side on one standard piece of paper, whether American or European. That’s what I have been typically doing with PDFs, printing them (often on scrap paper, if I did not intend to keep it). But I’ve been getting tired of wasting so much paper, and I am constantly looking for better ways of viewing PDFs. Reading them on the PC is not a good option – my eyes get tired; worse, I like to get comfortable in an easy chair or on a couch, and I want a book-sized object to hold in my hand, rather than balance a PC in my lap.

    I’ve been using e-book readers (first a Sony, more recently a Kindle). They are great as far as readability goes. The latest Kindle is as good as printed paper. It’s going to kill the paperback (I still buy them, but now I am becoming increasingly more choosy, buying only those I intend to keep on the book shelf). But Kindles are too small to read articles on, and they are not great at imaging graphics (also, many figures nowadays are in color). I use Calibre for organizing my e-books, and it translates different formats well. But the problem remains the graphics.

    Recently I broke down and decided to buy a tablet specifically to read scientific articles as PDFs. I tested my stepson’s iPad and it seems to work very well, but it’s a bit too heavy to hold in one hand. So in the end I decided to buy the new Sony Xperia Z. When I get it I will report on how well it works. My main worry is that these tablets invariably have glossy screens – perhaps great for watching movies, but I’d prefer a matte screen for reading. We’ll see.

  5. Francisco says:

    Peter, do you need any more people with a little spare time regarding the journal Cliodynamics? If there is a chance I could help as a volunteer, please email me.