Membership questionnaire on the future of the Journal of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society
One of the greatest advantages of membership of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society is that all members receive the annual issue of the Society’s Journal. Thanks to the work of our editors and the many contributing authors, this high-quality journal has advanced scholarship on the history of Nova Scotia since 1998 (and in previous forms going back another 120 years). The Journal has made articles on a wide spectrum of important and pertinent subjects available to our members, and to the broader community through libraries. Now, in 2020, key decisions need to be made regarding the future of the Journal.
The first of these is an economic decision, in that the costs of the printing and delivery of the Journal in paper form have risen to the point of putting serious stress on the Society’s limited resources, especially at a time when there has been a long-term reduction in membership and therefore in revenue from membership fees. With electronic distribution now readily available at a much lesser cost, the question is whether the annual production of a paper issue of the Journal is sustainable. In the event that a model of mainly electronic distribution were implemented, print copies could still be provided to members who wished to have them, though perhaps with a fee to cover additional costs, bearing in mind that the unit cost of printing just a few copies would be relatively high.
The second decision also has to do with distribution, but also has implications for editorial policy. Most scholarly journals today are distributed in part through aggregation. This means that non-exclusive rights are given to distributors (some non-profit, others for-profit) that act as agents to provide fee-based access to libraries, and then return the revenues in part to the journal itself. This is typically an essential element of the business model of any modern journal. Our Journal is already available on ProQuest and EBSCO, but the question now facing us is whether to add to this an application for membership of Érudit.
Érudit is a Canadian, non-profit consortium that exists for dissemination of the results of Canadian research. Membership for the Journal would bring additional global distribution, along with the possibility of applying for certain modest funding subsidies. There would be some added costs for standardized electronic formatting, but on the whole the arrangement would be financially beneficial. There would also be a benefit in adding to the academic prestige of the Journal.
However, membership of Érudit would also involve new obligations. Electronic access would have to be open to all, with the exception of the most recent year. This would, in a sense, diminish the exclusive benefits of RNSHS membership, although only for past issues.
Érudit also has specific requirements for the scholarly processes of each member journal. Meeting these criteria would require that our Journal would have to move further than at present in the direction of rigorous and systematic peer review and would also have to ensure meeting the minimum of six peer-reviewed articles in each annual issue.
There would also, therefore, be an implied rethinking of the relationship between the Journal and the Society’s speaker series. At present, the Journal – while maintaining high standards through its current review system – endeavours to be as open as possible to all of the speakers who make a written submission, not all of whom are professional scholars. An Érudit journal would inevitably face greater pressure to be a vehicle for academic historians whose work would be scrutinized through a more systematic peer review process. While either model has its merits, the reality is that the society will need to make a choice about the ongoing nature of the Journal, specifically, whether we wish for the Journal to continue being readily available to community historians, or whether we wish to focus on papers that are able to meet an academic standard.
Accordingly, the Editorial Board of the Journal has recommended to the Society’s Council, and the Council has accepted the recommendation, that before any decision is made either on the future of the print edition of the Journal, or on applying to Érudit, an effort should be made to ascertain the views of the membership. Accordingly, we are asking members to kindly respond to a questionnaire. It is available either in paper form (enclosed with the 2020 issue of the Journal) or in electronic form on the Society’s website. Thank you in advance to all members who provide valued input!
Please enter your name so we can confirm your membership to the RNSHS.
1a: Would you support the conversion of the Journal to a publication distributed to members, mainly electronically? (Why, or why not?)
1b: If yes, and if some members wished to continue to receive a print edition, would you support the charging of a fee (cost-recovery only) to those members?
1c: Please add any further comments on electronic distribution of the Journal.
2a: In the event that the Journal applies for membership of Érudit, all issues (other than most recent) would become available on an open access basis. Would you support this change?
2b: Membership of Érudit would make the Journal more academically prestigious, and would also bring a net benefit in financial terms. However, new peer review requirements would also potentially make publication in the Journal more difficult for avocational historians, including contributors to the Society's speaker series. Would you support a change in this direction?
2c: Please add any further comments on the possibility of the Érudit membership.
3: Please add any additional comments on the future of the Journal as a benefit for the Society's members, or on any other benefits of membership you would like to see.
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