INITIAL PROPOSAL FOR HOLY WELLS E-JOURNAL
AIM & SCOPE
To provide an international electronic journal that will constitute a forum for study and facilitate debate of all aspects of holy well studies, from academic to grass-roots level. For the purposes of this e-journal, holy well is defined simply as a living spring, or site where a living spring once flowed. It is intended that the criterion for publication should be that the subject matter contribute to the growth of knowledge and understanding of this field of study, whether from a historical, sociological, folkloric, Christian, Pagan or other relevant standpoint.
Given that the holy wells community is comparatively small, it would appear crucial that the e-journal serve the needs of all members of that community, academics and enthusiasts alike. For that reason it is proposed that articles written for the journal should be of two types: peer-reviewed research papers which would e.g. contribute to Research Assessment Exercises in UK universities; equally important will be good quality studies by local historians and other holy wells enthusiasts. While the journal will be published primarily via the WWW, hard copy of articles will be made available to those enthusiasts who currently have no access to the Internet.
There are five principal advantages to online publishing by comparison with paper publishing, in relation to this proposed venture. Firstly, the WWW audience is global. It will be possible, through careful construction and marketing of the e-journal to easily reach a much wider audience than the small press journal can. Interested (although necessarily English-speaking) individuals from all over the world will be able to access the works and opinions presented within its virtual pages, and thus join in the debate. Both authors of this proposal can personally testify to having received comments from across the globe through their current WWW work.
Secondly, online publishing is much more immediate than paper publishing. Even within the format of this e-journal, as outlined below, it will be possible to publish opinions, new articles and news within hours of it being received by the editors. There will be no more waiting months (or years) for articles to be published and for feedback to be received.
Thirdly, there are fewer limits to the data-set size that can be presented. A printed journal is subject to certain restrictions, the final product being a balance between the amount of material that can be presented within the publishing budget; which is, of course, related to the size of the readership. A number of authors have commented on the fact that many works remain unpublished because the readership is too small to make paper publication financially viable. With electronic publishing there are no such restrictions, thus enabling the publication of a wide range of articles, good quality colour photographs, and even raw data.
Similarly, such a venture has minimal costs for the reader. Anybody with access to a computer and modem can view or download articles, as and when they wish to view them, for the price of a local telephone call. There will be no publishing or postage costs to pass on to the readership. A method will be found to alert potential readers who do not have Internet access to the existence of the journal and its contents, so that they are able to request prints of individual articles for a nominal charge which will cover administrative costs incurred by the editors.
A further, and compelling, advantage to electronic publishing is the ability to make use of what is technically referred to as hypermedia theory. This means essentially that it is possible to form links between different sections of a document or between different documents, or even between documents in different geographical locations. This concept will be familiar to all users of the WWW and is the subject of many research articles. In brief, the advantage of this structure is that documents, and collections of documents, become more fluid and organic. They can still be read as the author wrote them, in a linear fashion. But the reader also has the option of veering off on tangents, making connections that may not be immediately apparent, forging new paths through the information superhighway.
It is not surprising then that very many initiatives have made use of online publishing to promote the dissemination of their work more quickly to a wider audience. Readers are referred to the excellent work of Internet Archaeology and Assemblage for just two examples of what can be achieved by the judicious use of the WWW. Not to mention the numerous university departments, excavation reports and enthusiast sites that are gaining considerable support within the virtual world wide community.
BACKGROUND TO THIS PROPOSAL
This e-journal project has grown directly out of an attempt to provide a website for Source: the holy wells journal, a long-running and well-established hard-copy journal. It appeared to us, and to some others working in the field, that a Web presence was the logical next step for Source, and would enhance its standing and increase the number of subscribers. At no point was it intended that the website should upstage or overshadow Source itself: it was devised primarily as a form of publicity.
Following verbal discussion with one of the two current editors of Source, a prototype website was designed and we sought further discussions with the Source editors. Like others recently, we now found it impossible to enter into any kind of dialogue with the editors, either by phone or in writing. So reluctantly, and further encouraged by the lapse of time since the last issue of Source to appear, along with the urgent need for some dedicated means of publication for those working in this field, we have reworked our original concept into a proposal for an electronic journal.
STRUCTURE AND FORMAT
As set out above, one of the advantages of delivering a journal of this type via the World WideWeb is the immediacy of publication. However, it is our belief that it is necessary to maintain some form of temporal structure to facilitate the editing process, and for ease of citation. To this end, it is proposed that each issue be centred on the peer-reviewed articles. These will form the main focus of each issue, and will be published online at regular intervals depending on the frequency of submission. A figure of three or four issues per annum is envisaged at this early stage, but this is flexible. These keynote articles will be presented along with some reviewers comments (see below) in the peer-reviewed section of the virtual journal.
Any other articles or correspondence submitted could then be published in the non-reviewed section of the journal as and when they are received, on a rolling basis. In this fashion, each issue will grow organically according to the input from interested readers. At the end of the three or four month period, the issue will be closed, archived on site, and a new issue begun with a new set of keynote articles.
It is considered that this means of publication makes best use of the advantages of online publishing whilst maintaining a suitably coherent structure. It must be stressed that all previous issues will be made available for all interested parties at all times.
EDITORIAL CONTROL AND ACADEMIC REVIEW
To facilitate speedy publication of articles, reviews, letters etc, it is intended that overall editorial control rest with the writers of this proposal, who have the advantage of working within the same institution and having joint access to the filespace where the journal will be lodged. It is felt that for a journal of this type, a larger editorial team is neither desirable nor practical; although it is hoped that a panel of suitably qualified persons (not necessarily academics) will be assembled to provide expert review for articles in the peer-review section of the journal.
It is our hope and intention to assemble a panel of persons with a wide spread of specialities to act as a peer review panel for articles to be published in the more academic section of the journal. Any article submitted to the editors would then be sent to at least two members of this panel for comment. Subsequent publication in the journal will only be possible if the script is deemed worthy of inclusion.
Traditionally, it has been customary to peer review articles on an anonymous basis. In line with the contemporary idea of an electronically delivered journal, and in the spirit of open debate, it is suggested that a less covert means of assessing suitability and quality is implemented. This will take the form of the reviewers comments being made available in the journal alongside the original article to stimulate debate and feedback about the authors work. It is envisaged that this will foster a discourse to which all members of the community can contribute, thus helping to bridge the gap between the perceived 'ivory towers' of academia and the often well-informed amateur archaeologist, historian, folklorist, etc.
Please contact us with any feedback you wish to give, even if only brief expressions of interest and support. In order to continue with the project we need to know if there is enough interest out there for it to be a viable undertaking. Please copy this to anyone you know who might be interested, whether they have Internet access or not (as outlined above, we have plans for making hard copy available).
Whatever your self-perceived academic level, rest assured that we are keen to publish articles and short pieces from all those working in this field. If you would be interested in submitting any form of publication to this e-journal, please let us know NOW by emailing the editors. Help will be readily available for those intimidated by the constraints of referencing, bibliography and other such esoteric arts :-)
In particular, to allow articles to be subject to the academic review process, we need to find a number of academics working on different aspects of the field, who would also be willing to take part in the peer-review process. If you would be willing in principle to be on the review panel, please contact us NOW with a brief outline of your particular area of expertise. Please copy this proposal to any colleagues working in the field who might be willing to act as referees.
It is our opinion that the structure proposed above is the best way forward at this stage, as it makes best use of the available technology while still maintaining traditional links with a wide cross-section of the holy wells community. However, the success or failure of this venture rests in the enthusiasm and commitment of everybody within the holy wells community. We are prepared to put in time and effort to co-ordinate the venture (e.g. arrange refereeing, edit scripts, convert text to html, upload works to the WWW etc.), because we wish to see and make use of a forum dedicated to holy well research in its widest sense. But we cant do it without your support. If you share our enthusiasm then please help us to spread the word. Thank you for your time and interest.
Katy Jordan & Richard Pederick
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Pederick (© Living Spring Journal,
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Created December 1, MCMXCIX