What Would It Take to Create a Humanities Journal With the Public Impact of a Science Journal Like Nature?

In a recent post on Research Blogs, Christopher Pressler—Director of Senate House Libraries, University of London—reflects on “whether it is possible, or indeed even wise to start a journal in the humanities that has a similar market profile as Nature‚ the critical and popular science journal.” Nature, he observes, has the following characteristics:

  • Highest prestige of research and researchers
  • Weekly publications in print and online
  • Global public readership and subscriptions
  • Massive potential impact for reputations and funding
  • Broad discipline coverage but shared scientific approaches

The main thing, he feels, is that “Nature is part of a movement to bring closer together the practitioners of science and those who have an intelligent interest in their subjects…. It is a lecture theatre with the doors wide open.” To create an equivalent journal for the humanities, Pressler speculates, would require meeting the following three challenges:

  • Ensuring the humanities matter (to agencies and the public)
  • Agreeing that subject differences are a strength
  • Promoting collaborative research projects and practices

As a thought-experiment, Pressler suggests a hypothetical “first issue” of such a humanities journal that would have the “tone” of the “2011 Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts conference, hosted by Nottingham University in China.” (The theme of the conference, held on September 4-7 in Ningbo, China, was “Connected Communities: Global or Local2Local?”) He concludes:

In terms of the pubic understanding of the humanities, a powerful way in‚ is cultural exchange. We live now in a time of massive global communication (might we call this journal Dialogue). This embraces the creative arts, performance, historiography, genealogy, fine art, sociology, economics, philosophy, languages, literatures, film, archaeology and almost every other academic discipline in the broader humanities. Set in the contexts of cultural engagement between the West and China, or between Western Europe, the US and Russia, or within the Americas or the role of Asia in the contemporary world or the importance of Europe and the US in its inception, surely there are stories here. (Read Pressler’s full post.)

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