“Networks and Neighbours” is an open-access peer-reviewed journal of early medieval studies, which was set up last year by some of Ian Wood‘s enterprising PhD students – Tim Barnwell, Ricky Broome, Jason Berg and Michael Kelly. In their day jobs, they do exciting stuff on ‘otherness’ in sources such as Aethicus Ister’s Cosmography, hagiographies of mission, and Adam of Bremen’s History of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen.

Back in December, I met up with Tim and Ricky in Sheffield in the downstairs cafe of the Millennium Gallery. We chatted, drank coffee, and I ate a pretty decent scone. We talked about my work on mission and the apocalyptic, the usefulness of ‘otherness’ as a category of study, and the value and dangers of open-access publishing. That interview is now online here.

Then I gave a paper on ‘Apocalypse and Arab Conquests: Views from the Eighth-Century West’ across town at the University’s MARS seminar. Good times.

Anyway, I do want to stress the importance ventures such as N&N might have for the dissemination of research in the future. There have been many arguments made over the last year or so to the effect that, if public money funds research, it should be publicly available rather than behind a paywall. Difficult to argue against, I think. A lot of people would like to see this pursued in a manner which preserves the current world of academic publishing, possibly with publishers being paid more by researchers to make research available. There are dangers to this, well discussed. But much quality research can be disseminated for free without these behind-the-scenes costs. I could put all my work straight onto this blog if it was the best things to do. But, you would point out, I wouldn’t have the quality control. Well, N&N has all the quality control mechanisms of a traditional journal because it has an editorial board and peer-reviewing, all of which is always done for free in humanities journals anyway. So in fact high-quality research could be made freely available very cheaply indeed, if the cord with traditional publishing were cut and scholars went online. Copy-editing could be an issue, admittedly. It will, one way of another, be interesting to see how N&N fare and what kind of reputation they generate. The Heroic Age has been at this game since 1998 but it has never really taken off as it could have done. But the game, it seems, is changing.