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.
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
An Issue Devoted to Dialogue
Was Wealth Really Determined in 8000 BCE, 1000 BCE, 0 CE, or Even 1500 CE?
Thompson, William R; Sakuwa, Kentaro
The Actual Achievements of Early Indo-Europeans, in Accurate Historical Context
Beckwith, Christopher I
The West and the Rest: The Science of the Great Divergence
Social Evolution Forum
Human Cultures are Primarily Adaptive at the Group Level (with comment)
Wilson, David Sloan
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