Online Journal Finds New Home

Pioneering digital journal now hosted by Dickinson

by MaryAlice Bitts

July 15, 2010

Dan Cozort, associate professor of religion (right), believes that the newly revamped Journal of Buddhist Ethics reflects a sea change in the world of academic publishing. Cozort worked with multimedia developer Brenda Landis (left) to bring the online journal to a Dickinson server.

Thanks to a forward-looking religion professor, a savvy LIS professional and exciting trends in academic publishing, Dickinson is the new home to a revamped online religion journal.

Dan Cozort, associate professor of religion, and Brenda Landis, multimedia developer, joined forces to migrate The Journal of Buddhist Ethics to a Dickinson server. The publication also boasts a new look and format.

Paperless pioneers

Buddhist Ethics was established in 1994, when few online journals existed. “[The founders] wanted to establish a journal that was freely available to anyone in the world,” said Cozort, who first published an article in the journal in 1995.

The journal functioned like a print journal, but without the associated delays and costs. And with no space limitations, its editors were able to publish as many articles and reviews as they felt were worthy of publication.

Over the years, Buddhist Ethics’ content and readership grew. But while the publication was cutting edge by 1994 standards, it lacked some interactive features that are available today.

Enter the professor

That changed in March, when the journal's technical editor accepted a new position. Cozort, who had been editing or co-editing the journal since 2006, was happy to take on the additional responsibility. But because he didn’t have expert Web-design or Web-maintenance skills, he wasn’t sure how best to revamp the site.

Landis suggested migrating the journal into a blog program for easier maintenance and to allow for increased reader communication. So, under Landis’ guidance—and with the help of student workers, who copied files from the old site to the new—Cozort redesigned the site, adding new features.

Landis notes that while journal hosting is not something that LIS typically takes on, the department does support larger projects when time and resources permit. And she is happy to have been able to help in this instance.

Although the paperless articles look like print articles, with volume numbers, page numbers and margins, Cozort can easily upload articles that exceed the standard 7,500-word print-publication limit. The journal's readers may leave comments about individual articles. Printing expenses are eliminated. Best of all, the entire output of this electronic journal—a database that reflects its entire 17 years of publication—is immediately searchable and available, and tags list the most common topics in each article.

Dinosaur to dynamic

To complement the site's new interactive features, Cozort selected a contemporary design that includes a photo of a green leaf—a reflection, he said, of his recent interest in Buddhist environmental ethics. He enjoys editing the newly revamped journal, which allows him to review fascinating new research from a wide variety of sources.

“I receive submissions from well-established scholars who are doing cutting-edge research, but also from graduate students hopeful that their revised seminar paper can become an academic publication and from religious practitioners,” he said, adding that although many of these submissions must be rejected, he enjoys helping authors better frame and phrase their arguments. And the editorial and publishing process is streamlined, much to his delight.

In fact, he said, the work associated with publishing an article—receiving and distributing an article for review, submitting criticisms and suggestions to the author, author revision and resubmission, final review, posting and distribution to a Buddism listserv—can be accomplished in just one week.

It’s a far cry from the often slow and cumbersome process of traditional academic publishing, Cozort said. The opportunity to work on an electronic journal hosted at Dickinson is, therefore, exciting.

“In my opinion, academic journals in print are dinosaurs. They are so expensive that few scholars can subscribe to them, and many academic libraries now carry as few as possible,” he said. “This is widely accessible to people all over the world.”

Published July 17, 2010