Annual Report 2001
In addition to its regular functions of oversight for prize committees, the Program Committee for the annual meeting, and the American Historical Review, the Research Division has been primarily involved in questions concerning publication, especially those pertaining to the Gutenberg-e prize, the Guide to Historical Literature, licensing agreements with online re-publication companies such as EBSCO Subscription Services and Copyright Clearance, and the like. In these areas, new guidelines for program committees were crafted, along with new provisions-which were proposed and adopted by the Council-for greater participation of the president-elect in the shaping of the annual meeting program. New guidelines for reviewing electronic publications in the AHR were drawn up by Editor Michael Grossberg and adopted by the division as part of the ongoing process of integrating the AHR into the world of electronic publication.
The issues relating to online publication have been persistent and unavoidable for the division. The division has considered requests from publishers, authors, teachers, and researchers alike to side with them in protecting their rights-whether relating to publication of materials online, to proper compensation for the re-publication of their materials, or to the free and open access to online materials. Thus far the division has been reluctant to take sides in these disputes, declining, in particular, to join an amicus curiae brief in the case brought by freelance writer Jonathan Tasini against the New York Times, which revolved around questions of royalties for electronic "re-publication," on the grounds that the AHA did not have adequate knowledge or expertise to judge the respective merits of each side. Questions of copyright in the electronic world require technical and legal knowledge of a field whose parameters are constantly changing. Furthermore, the AHA represents a broad range of interests that encompass publishers and writers, researchers and teachers. The questions facing the Association will only grow more numerous and more complex. Therefore, the division proposed, and Council approved, the establishment of a Task Force on Intellectual Property. That task force is now in operation and will report back to Council and the membership at large on questions with respect to the changing laws and environment created by electronic publication.
The Mellon Foundation has renewed the grant for the Gutenberg-e prize, which will run for at least three additional years. Publication by Columbia University Press of the first six prize-winning books is expected in the coming year, and examples of the electronic books were showcased in a special session at the annual meeting. We continue to monitor the progress of this new initiative closely, and are working with Columbia University Press to ensure that adequate provisions for review and distribution of the electronic books are maintained.
The division also surveyed all past editors who had participated in the last edition of the AHA Guide to Historical Literature. On the basis of that survey, it came to the conclusion that online publication of new editions of the guide was deemed most desirable. A meeting with Oxford University Press suggested that future revisions to the Guide to Historical Literature will be published online, in all likelihood in a rolling series of revisions to the current print version. Although the details of this process have still to be worked out with Oxford University Press, the prospects for electronic versions of the Guide seem good, facilitating access to that important resource. In the meanwhile, there is a possibility that Oxford University Press will publish a paperback edition of the Guide, thereby reducing its cost and making it more accessible to individual users.
Measures to provide grants to independent scholars for research in libraries were unsuccessful, but at the urging of the Research Division, the AHA joined the Modern Languages Association and the Organization of American Historians in signing a resolution sent to all research libraries requesting lower fees and greater accessibility for independent scholars. It is hoped that this pressure will help to alleviate the high costs of research for independent scholars, and at the same time grant access to online databases subscribed to by libraries, to which unaffiliated scholars are currently barred. We will continue to monitor this situation and to apply pressure on libraries to open their doors to all qualified scholars.
The division also sponsored three panels for the 2002 annual meeting, one on "The Cultural Politics of Horror: A Debate on Peter Novick's The Holocaust in American Life"; one on "The Play of Scale," which examined the consequences for historical analysis of a refocusing of attention as historical investigation moves from micro- to macro-history; and a third panel on the place and function of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) in the practice of oral history. This last session was proposed and organized by Linda Shopes, who was the Council's representative to the division. It is with regret that I note that Linda's term on the Council, and hence the Research Division, is now completed. She spent three years teaching us all about the importance of public history and initiating us into the arcana of IRBs, for which we remain grateful. Finally, I would again like to acknowledge that no one could do the job of heading the Research Division without the unfailing and unfailingly excellent work of the AHA's staff. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Robert Townsend and Kate Masur for their unstinting aid and to note that Kate has now left the staff of the AHA to take up a postdoctoral fellowship at George Mason University. Her good cheer and helpful advice will be missed.
Gabrielle M. Spiegel (Johns Hopkins University) is the vice president of the AHA's Research Division.Last Updated: July 6, 2007 3:51 PM