Exactly four years ago, writing on this very blog, I was starting to mumble about the possibility of a journal dedicated to the field of Cultural Evolution. The post prompted a number of supportive reactions and some actual actions – for example, a meeting at the EHBEA Conference 2014 in Bristol – but without any concrete result (my summary of the situation at the end of 2015 is here).
A paper I wrote together with Claudio Tennie has just been published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. The role of redundant information in cultural transmission and cultural stabilization presents an individual-based model of the following, quite straightforward, idea (which was, admittedly, Claudio’s idea).
Around two years and a half ago (!), I wrote a post discussing the opportunity for the creation of an academic journal dedicated to the field of cultural evolution. The rationale was that a publishing niche was empty, with a fast-growing field that was starting to have a precise identity, and a large enough number of practitioners, that often found difficult to publish in more disciplinary-oriented journals. The post had a good success, and many cultural evolutionists showed their support to the idea.
On the operative side there is one important news: we had a meeting with Peter Turchin (see his excellent Social Evolution Forum) who proposed the possibility to join forces. Peter is the editor in chief of “Cliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History“. In short, this option would involve broadening the scope of the existent journal (now mainly focused on historical, long-term, processes) to include other dimensions of cultural evolutionary studies, and changing the title – and renewing the editorial board – so to reflect the new scope. Notice this option will depend both on what we will discuss on the meeting and on the decision of the current editorial board of Cliodynamics.
The journal currently publishes peer-reviewed articles in electronic-only form, and it is based on the eScolarship platform from the University of California. Access is completely free (as it happens, in general, in Open Access journals), and no fees are required to publish (as it does not happen, in general, in Open Access journals). This model can be sustained by a mix of voluntary work and external fundings: if I understood correctly, a person supported by a grant is currently working part-time on it, and this grant will last for the next three years (so that, in principle, we would not necessary need, at least for the first period, other fundings).
An appealing aspect is that the journal has been submitted almost three years ago to Thomson Reuters’ review, so that, if the process will go smooth, it will be soon indexed in the Web of Science, which means, notably, that it will have an Impact Factor. (However, it is very important to understand exactly the effect of a potential change of name, scope, etc. on this process).
If one considers this publishing model appropriate, there are several advantages in pursuing this option, including importantly that the “platform” (by which I mean organisational as well as technical aspects) is already in place, and it could be used for a relatively prompt launch (“prompt” being intended with reference to the publishing time system).
For the sake of debate, one might legitimately prefer a more traditional publishing model, so to be sure to have on the side an experienced publisher and to concentrate on the more “scientific” aspects of the endeavour. Also, I understand a certain psychological attraction of having a “shiny” new start of the enterprise. Finally – but this may be my idiosyncrasy – why all the not-from-a-big-publisher academic journals that I know seem to look aesthetically unpleasant? Does it need to be like that?
See you in Bristol to discuss about it – and, again, comments below are encouraged!
Some months ago I wrote a post mentioning the difficulties that, at times, people working in the interdisciplinary field of “cultural evolution” may face in order to find an appropriate scientific journal to submit their research. Also, I wondered whether, given that the general feeling seems to be that the field is quite coherent, and that it is starting to be “mature”, it was perhaps time for a “Journal of Cultural Evolution” (If all this does not make much sense please go to the aforementioned post).
I was pleased to see that the reaction was generally positive – and, above all, that there was a reaction – which made me think that probably I was exposing a common concern, and indeed many people thought that there was an empty niche in the academic publishing that one could fill.
Therefore, with Fiona Jordan, we are organising a meeting at EHBEA 2014 (the European Human Behavior and Evolution Association Conference, which will be held in Bristol from 6 to 9 April, and which is with no doubts a cultural evolution-friendly conference) to discuss about this project, and possibly to start to do something concrete in this direction.
The meeting, which will be short and informal, will be Wednesday 9 April at 13.00 (lunchtime) in the conference venue (I’ve been told that people tend to run to pubs at the end of the day after the talks; and anyway the lunch is provided on-site by the conference, so we would be there in any case).
I’ll try to post in the next days some material to start a discussion, but of course I’d be very happy if someone want to use this space (or elsewhere) to share some ideas before the actual meeting. Also, please, circulate the information to cultural evolutionists and EHBEA-goers who happen to not read this blog (shame on them).
See you in Bristol!