Publication Plans


Now the thesis is out of the way I need to fix my pub­lic­a­tion plans. There’s an added twist in the UK. We don’t have ten­ure here, we have the RAE/REF.

The RAE was the Research Assessment Exercise which was a way of grad­ing the research pro­duced by depart­ments. It was bloated, bur­eau­cratic and expens­ive and no one knew how the mater­ial was going to be assessed until after the sub­mis­sion dead­line. Clearly it’s broken, so it’s being replaced by the REF, the Research Excellence Framework.This was going to be more bib­li­o­met­ric­ally based, but there’s been com­plaints about that so it’s now more likely to run along the same lines as the RAE, pos­sibly with a few added lay­ers. If I knew exactly how it was going to work I could get a job in any depart­ment in the coun­try. It’s quite pos­sible no-one will know how it will work till after the sub­mis­sion deadline.

I’m told that there won’t be bib­li­o­met­ric assess­ment in History, Archaeology or Classics, but that will mean the Humanities are being assessed in a dif­fer­ent way to the Sciences. I’m work­ing on the assump­tion that some form of cita­tion count will be included. If there no such assess­ment that’s fine. If there is I’d rather be com­plain­ing that the sys­tem is non­sense from closer to the top of the pile than the bot­tom. It’s some­thing I need to be aware of because inter­dis­cip­lin­ary work will tend to be pen­al­ised by bib­li­o­met­ric counts. It’s down to how you pub­lish, because while work might be rel­ev­ant to people in three dis­cip­lines, it’ll prob­ably be pub­lished in journ­als spe­cial­ising in just one. I will only get to enter four papers into the REF, so I can’t sub­mit a paper where only 1/3 of the poten­tial audi­ence will be able to read it. That’s why I’ll be adopt­ing this golden rule.

Any journal I pub­lish in MUST allow some form of Open Access.

Open Access WeekI don’t know if that’s always going to be pos­sible. Some journ­als in my field aren’t even web-accessible and at least one is extremely hos­tile — in a good natured way — to Open Access, but the situ­ation is bet­ter than it was a few years ago. I’ve decided I don’t need Gold Open Access, that’s the one where you can read it at the journal. It would be nice, but I need to be able to put up a pre-print or a final draft. All I need is some­thing good enough for people to read what I’m doing, and if they need to use the paper pro­fes­sion­ally they can order it through their lib­rar­ies, buy it, or email me for an off-print. Anyway that’s the inten­tion and now if I don’t you can point to the big let­ters above and ask me why I’ve not stuck to it.

I’ve got four papers in vari­ous stages of final­isa­tion. One is going through the peer-review pro­cess. The oth­ers have yet to be sub­mit­ted with Paper 4 5% final­ised, which is so much more upbeat than ‘star­ted’. The aim will be to get Paper 2 out to a journal by mid-October, Paper 3 by mid-November and Paper 4 by mid-December, but I can see that slip­ping to January.

I should also be look­ing at a book. That won’t be the thesis because it reads like sand­pa­per on the eyes. It might have made two good books, but not one. So the book will prob­ably be some­thing like Social Astronomy in Ancient Greece and built around the papers. The plan will be to fin­ish the book and then tout it to pub­lish­ers and not leave the dead­line hanging over my head. I don’t object to people pay­ing for it if it’s an afford­able price. Robert Hannah’s recent books have cer­tainly been afford­able. It’ll also have to be the right pub­lisher. If it’s a pub­lisher that expects the author to provide his own ref­er­ees and camera-ready copy then I’m not inter­ested. That’s van­ity publishing.

The thesis will be avail­able via the Leicester Research Archive and the British Library’s EThOS sys­tem. Or at least via the Leicester Research Archive. I’ve had zero luck with EThOS. I’m kick­ing around ideas for elec­tri­fy­ing it. It could be PDF via Lulu and Scribd but I’m look­ing to see if I can con­vert it to a web­site too so the data can be played with. If any­one can sug­gest a light CMS to do this I’d be grate­ful. I’ve tried Drupal, and that’s far too com­plex. It might even mean hand­cod­ing, because it’s not like I’ll be plan­ning to change or add more text once it’s done.

Related posts by Michael E. Smith at Publishing Archaeology include:

Scholarly Journals between the Past and the Future by Martin Rundkvist.


PDQ SubmissionRundkvist, M. 2007. Scholarly Journals between the Past and the Future: The Fornvännen Centenary Round-Table Seminar, Stockholmm 21 April 2006. Konferenser 65. Kungl. Vitterhets Historie och Antikvitets Akademien.

It’s a meas­ure of the qual­ity of this book that I have delayed put­ting up a review until I have thought it could get the audi­ence it deserves. The volume brings together papers by nine edit­ors of journ­als across Europe, each with their own per­spect­ive on what the future holds for pub­lish­ing. Their opin­ions are diverse and pro­voc­at­ive, but even where some asser­tions are demon­strably wrong they high­light mis­con­cep­tions about pub­lish­ing which need to be tackled.

The first paper is ‘Scholarly Open Access Journals and Libraries’ by Jan Hagerlid. This can be an over­looked aspect of the Open Access debate, with aca­dem­ics con­cen­trat­ing on the con­tent rather than the medium. Hagerlid raises some inter­est­ing points high­light­ing that the aims even of of tra­di­tional and con­ser­vat­ive schol­ars do not neces­sar­ily align with those of pub­lish­ers. For example he notes that the trans­ition to elec­tronic sub­scrip­tion would have mean the end of the inter-library loan, had the pub­lish­ers been gran­ted what they deman­ded. He also argues that it would be wrong to treat pub­lish­ers as a mono­cul­ture. The big pub­lish­ers and their habit of bund­ling sub­scrip­tiosn with ever increas­ing prices threatens the sub­scrip­tion base of the inde­pend­ent journ­als. If the sub­scrip­tion model con­tin­ues to hold into the cur­rent cen­tury many smal­ler pub­lic­a­tions will either be bought out or dis­ap­pear. The paper provides an excel­lent sum­mar­ies of what Open Access means and why it is an import­ant issue. It also serves as a reminder that the changes ahead, how­ever they develop, are not trivial and will need col­lab­or­a­tion with lib­rar­i­ans if access of any sort to research is to con­tinue.
Continue read­ing

Egypt, Antiquities and Copyright

Mickey Mouse Copyright Laws
Mickey Mouse Copyright Laws. Based on a photo (cc) Liber.

One of the advant­ages of being slow in writ­ing is that you can look at what every­one else is say­ing about some­thing. Often people will have thought about the same prob­lem and already anti­cip­ated prob­lems in your own line of thought, so you can avoid mak­ing a fool of your­self. Other times it’s a sur­prise, and this is one of those times. News from the BBC is that Egypt is ‘to copy­right antiquit­ies’.

Egypt’s MPs are expec­ted to pass a law requir­ing roy­al­ties be paid whenever cop­ies are made of museum pieces or ancient monu­ments such as the pyr­am­ids and this law will apply around the world.

To a greater or lesser extent other blog­gers think they can’t do this and they can’t enforce it. In con­trast I think they can and they can. This isn’t just my very basic under­stand­ing of law. It’s also the fact that museums in the West have been doing this, more or less, for years. Below is where I make a fool of myself.
Continue read­ing

An early Christmas present from the Society for Medieval Archaeology

Pictish Stone
Pictish Stone. Photo (cc) Pamela Adam. Click on the photo to read her comments.

Good news from the Society for Medieval Archaeology and the wiz­ards at the Archaeology Data Service. The first fifty (50) issues of Medieval Archaeology are avail­able for free online. Its not quite open access, because the issues can’t be archived else­where, but that’s no real prob­lem as long as the ADS stays funded.

The Society exists to “fur­ther the study of the period from the 5th to the 16th cen­tury A.D. by pub­lish­ing a journal of inter­na­tional stand­ing deal­ing primar­ily with the archae­olo­gical evid­ence, and by other means such as by hold­ing reg­u­lar meet­ings and arran­ging con­fer­ences.” It’s clear mak­ing the journal freely access­ible is going to do a lot for their work, but even so when you also have to bal­ance the fin­an­cial needs of the Society it’s still a cour­ageous step in a field where most pub­lic­a­tions are subscription-only.

But the real reason to cel­eb­rate is that the journal is very good. There is plenty of stuff in it that deserves a wide audi­ence. For instance Pictish sym­bol stones are a bit of a mys­tery. However I can read about them in the art­icle Investing in Sculpture: Power in Early-historic Scotland by Meggen Gondek, which is avail­able as a PDF from Volume 50 of Medieval Archaeology.

The Open Access Dinosaur


Work is going well, you may see some of it before Christmas. I have plans for the New Year and I may have one or two archae­ology pro­jects that you can take part in wherever you are — if I can work out exactly what it is I’m doing. In the mean­time there’s news of new dino­saur pub­lic­a­tion from Coturnix, which is rather excit­ing for a couple of reasons.

Nigersaurus from PLoS One.

One is that it seems to be an intrins­ic­ally inter­est­ing dino­saur. Structural Extremes in a Cretaceous Dinosaur is a pub­lic­a­tion of a dino­saur which is like a mini Diplodocus, mini being a rel­at­ive descrip­tion. What makes it very strange are the bones, there’s not a lot to them. The skull is described as a feather­weight PLoS paper. This seems to be the same through­out the skel­eton. Co-author Jeffrey Wilson said: “The ver­teb­rae are so paper-thin that it is dif­fi­cult to ima­gine them cop­ing with the stresses of every­day use — but we know they did it, and they did it well.” The mount­ing of the skull on the spine means that it’s also more evid­ence as to whether Nigersaurus and Diplodocus ate like gir­affes from high food sources, or from the ground like cows. You can read about it in the December National Geographic, or if you want to see where these facts come from go to the source in PLoS One, which is the second excit­ing thing.

The pub­lic­a­tion of the paper shows a really clever piece of think­ing in pub­lish­ing. Rather than just see­ing pub­lic­a­tion as either com­mer­cial or non-commercial, the team work­ing on Nigersaurus are using the strengths of both meth­ods of pub­lish­ing. In this instance the com­mer­cial pub­lic­a­tion in National Geographic is going to get the work far more atten­tion than a purely open access pub­lic­a­tion would. At the same time, the open access pub­lic­a­tion means that the data will be access­ible to any­one with inter­net access until the apo­ca­lypse. I’m cur­rently hav­ing trouble track­ing down pub­lic­a­tions that are barely a cen­tury old, so this is very attract­ive. It’s not an isol­ated example, the Archaeological Institute of America pub­lishes their journal with open-access free online but has a com­mer­cial pub­lic­a­tion with Archaeology magazine, which shows that organ­isa­tions can work with both tra­di­tional copy­right and open-access rather than one to the exclu­sion of the other. Yet I can’t recall this kind of co-operation being done with such a major find before.

Hopefully there’ll be many more suc­cesses for PLoS One in many more disciplines.

How can you lead the Open Access revolution in the USA?

Capitol Hill. Photo (cc) Wyntuition.

If you live in the USA then Bora Zivkovic needs your help. The Senate is con­sid­er­ing the FY08 Labor-HHS Bill. It’s of interest because it includes pro­vi­sions to make NIH fun­ded research avail­able through open access 12 months after com­mer­cial pub­lic­a­tion. Currently the vol­un­tary arrange­ment means that only 5% of research fun­ded by American tax­pay­ers is avail­able without charge to those tax­pay­ers. This is why the bill is needed.

Not every­one agrees. Senator Inhofe (R-OK) believes that being taxed once is not enough and has filed to amend­ments to pre­vent open access to pub­licly fun­ded research.

Bora would like you to con­tact your sen­ator if you live in the USA and tell them that you’d like to have access to what you have paid for. It’ll need an email to be sent before close of busi­ness Oct 22, 2007. See A Blog Around the Clock for a sample email and more details.

Reviews in Archaeology

Reading Archaeology
Reading Archaeology. Photo (cc) Queen Roly.

There’s an inter­est­ing post gone up at Publishing Archaeology: Why Aren’t There More Good Book Reviews in Archaeology? — the dis­cip­line, not the magazine. Mike Smith raises one of those points which is obvi­ous when someone else men­tions it. Why is there no archae­olo­gical equi­val­ent of BMCR?

One key point is the dif­fer­ence between good reviews and pos­it­ive reviews. When I review some­thing here it tends to be pos­it­ive. One reason for this is that I write in my spare time and I don’t often feel like put­ting in effort for what may pro­mote a bad book. A good review in con­trast is one which informs you about the book and gives an accur­ate account of whether or not it’s worth both­er­ing with. Whether or not there are good reviews here is for you to decide and I’m not fish­ing for compliments.

My first reac­tion when read­ing this post were that there were plenty of good reviews, most of them in BMCR, but as Mike points out (and I keep for­get­ting) there is a Divide between archae­ology and clas­sics. Nonetheless BMCR is fant­astic. If you haven’t read it then it’s a free online journal which is only reviews of recent books. Better still you can also sign up to have the reviews delivered to your mail­box, where I tend to end up delet­ing a lot of them, because they’re often not some­thing I’d be inter­ested in. However, it’s not unusual to find some­thing which I wouldn’t have oth­er­wise read about.

So why is there no archae­olo­gical equi­val­ent? The tech­nical issues are trivial. From my pos­i­tion as a post-grad, we’re not really trained in book reviews. Mike Smith’s guide is a help here. Also, writ­ing a good review as opposed to a pos­it­ive review might be a bad idea when you don’t have a job. For instance a com­ment that north and south are oppos­ite dir­ec­tions can cause people to take umbrage [PDF]. Some people even set up an entirely new sec­tion of an organisation’s web­site to deliver that umbrage. That wouldn’t explain the dif­fer­ence between archae­ology and clas­sics though, because pre­sum­ably there are still aca­demic polit­ics to nego­ti­ate in classics.

Another reason may be the frag­ment­a­tion of archae­ology. Classics has big meet­ings for all clas­sics in both the UK and USA. The Classical Association is the big event in the UK, the APA meet­ing in the USA. Archaeologists in con­trast tend to meet in period-themed or method/theory-themed meet­ings. The closest to a gen­eral meet­ing for archae­ology in the UK is the TAG series, which is about Theoretical Archaeology with a very broad defin­i­tion of the­ory. There are some com­mon grounds between archae­olo­gists, Antiquity is the most obvi­ous one that springs to mind, but they’re rare.

This mat­ters because spe­ci­al­it­ies tend to be con­cen­trated in regions. You’re more likely to find an cluster of archae­olo­gical research­ers on Medieval Britain in the UK than in the USA. Similarly Australian archae­ology tends to be prac­ticed by Australian archae­olo­gists. The bound­ar­ies aren’t exclus­ive. There are Mayanists in the UK as well as the USA, but noth­ing like the same pro­por­tion. This means that in archae­ology, much more than in clas­sics, that spe­cial­isms are also social groups. Classicists in con­trast have the same sources regard­less of where they are in the world. A clas­si­cist is more likely to be able to review someone’s work and have little to do with them socially and pro­fes­sion­ally than an archae­olo­gist. If I like someone then I will find it dif­fi­cult to give a book a neg­at­ive review, even if it richly deserves one. If this isn’t a freak­ish per­sonal foible then it would explain how the less tightly knit clas­sical com­munity can pro­duce more good reviews.

A final UK based point is that we’re all assess­ment mad here at the moment. We get assessed on pro­du­cing papers and books, not review­ing them. Rather like under­grads if it ain’t assessed then we don’t think it’s important.

This wouldn’t in any­way detract from the cent­ral point Mike Smith makes, which is that from the per­spect­ive of pro­du­cing good Archaeology good book reviews are import­ant. It’s well worth read­ing the whole thing and the com­ments.