Scholarly Publishing: the Formal, the Informal, and the Ugly

Yesterday on Twitter Ted Curran asked me if UMW Blogs supports scholarly publishing, as opposed to just “informal” publishing.

It’s a good question, and it helped me realize that I’m increasingly blurring the distinction between scholarly and informal publishing. An occupational hazard, I guess. That said, and in fairness to Ted, there are a number of very clear indicators for scholarly publications: peer-reviewed, usually within a journal, and the author usually has three letters after their name. For all the amazing stuff we have going on in UMW Blogs, we don’t actually publish a formal scholarly journal. That said, we do have more than 40 student-created literary journals, 100s of student created research sites (here are just a few), the student newspaper, the UMW faculty and staff newsletter, and 7000+ sites of much more. But, again, none of those are a scholarly journal that I know of.

But of interest is just how much easier it’s becoming for just about anyone to create a journal technically. DTLT has five years of experience now working with hundreds of students to create journals from scratch using WordPress. Based on that experience, Martha Burtis and I designed the Shenandoah literary journal using WordPress more than two years ago. CUNY is running the peer-reviewed Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy on the Academic Commons, which suggests it can be part and parcel of people’s infrastructure (mad kudos to the CUNY folks again!). What’s more, Joss Winn’s points to the work Lincoln’s Academic Commons is doing as a repository for scholarly publications. And more just recently Dan Cohen‘s tweet pointed to a new journal The Appendixwhich is also created in WordPress actually as Brian Jones notes it is Ruby on Rails which is exciting (and makes way for another post on this one):

The point here actually isn’t WordPress at all—although admittedly all the examples above use that software—but rather how easy it is, at least technically, for a college or university to create and support an online (hopefully open access) peer-reviewed journal. There is still the labor of an editorial board, advisors, reading, etc., but the costs for publishing and sharing are next to nothing if you or your university have a half-way decent publishing platform. So when Bon Stewart re-tweeted this Guardian article about access to research on British universities’ websites the thought came full-circle for me.

We have all kinds of publishing platform options at UMW: we have UMW Blogs and UMW’s main site (both running on WordPress), and this coming Fall every faculty, staff, and student will have free access to their own domain and web hosting. What I would love see at DTLT in the coming year is partnerships with a few faculty to experiment with building and maintaining an open access, freely available journal in their discipline. What’s more, how can UMW start having the discussion to do more to publish the research of its faculty for all to see on

With that said, however, it’s important to keep in mind we are not a research university, we are a pubic liberal arts college that changed its name to University—but has kept the soul of a college (which is a good thing for us!). And while we have  a number of faculty that publish regularly, our lifeblood is teaching, small class interaction, and a student’s intimate on-campus experience. It’s equally important, at least in my mind, that we continue to further integrate the life of the mind at UMW (which I think of as the conversation, teaching, and discourse happening in the community—in fact, all that is often omitted from a scholarly article) into the UMW web presence more generally. In many way that last point is more interesting to me than the scholarly publishing piece. What our blogging platform has afforded us the ability to capture the nuanced context of thought happening in the lab of a classroom amongst students and teachers together. It’s an informal scholarship of teaching in the raw and on the open web. Sometimes it is even less than informal, it can be downright ugly, but that’s kinda what I like about it—there’s an archive coming online that has heretofore been lost: the archive of the UGLY in academia 🙂

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5 Responses to Scholarly Publishing: the Formal, the Informal, and the Ugly

  1. It’s not necessarily clean. My thesis is available on my own website, as well as in the University’s repository. The U has rules about availability, so the download link isn’t live until convocation (I suppose just in case something happens and I don’t actually walk across the stage…)

    does that make my research any more or less available? it’s online now. it’s in the institutional repository now. it all works out.

    • Reverend says:


      No, it makes it all that much more available. And the idea of re-thinking peer-review is up for grabs there as well with specific approaches to analytics, but I think the two can live pretty seamlessly side-by-side now at a very low threshhold.

  2. totally. my response to the temporary embargo on the official copy of my thesis was “whatever. it’s already online. anyone who wants/needs it has it already.” best of both.

  3. also, there’s stuff like Anotum, that might let you manage/publish academic research or journals within WordPress. Bloggy blogblog AND scholarly academic publishing…

  4. Ben Harwood says:

    Doesn’t informal publishing also include shades of open access and open educational resources? Martin Weller’s talk provided some useful insight into challenges of being recognized for scholarship and achievement in open digital publishing. I gather this scene is still marginalized and/or misunderstood in/by current peer review processes at many campuses.

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