February 2021 – Challenges and Changes

As of 11th February 2021, our journal (NoMe) is no longer listed on the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ). The reason for this change is simple and straightforward: in 2020, too few double-blind peer-reviewed research articles were published by us, and DOAJ’s official policy requires an yearly minimum of such publications. We fully understand and respect the decision of the editorial managers at DOAJ, but we also regret it. Since its creation in 2005, in fact, NoMe has pioneered, championed and, eventually, established full and free Open-Access (OA) scholarship in Iceland. Under this respect, then, our journal’s inclusion in DOAJ had always been a much-cherished recognition of our accomplishments, as well as a sign of our devotion to OA publishing in general. As a memento of the fruitful decade of active collaboration between NoMe and DOAJ, the latter’s logo and weblink will still be available on our homepage, along with EBSCO’s, which started listing NoMe after DOAJ itself.

It must be stated that the small number of double-blind peer-reviewed research articles that were published in 2020 was no accident. It was instead the result of three known factors:

  1. By having only one regular annual issue devoted to an academic niche such as Nordic and Mediterranean studies, NoMe has never produced a large output of double-blind peer-reviewed research articles in its many years of editorial activity.
  2. As stated in NoMe’s Editorial Policy, the journal’s focus has never been on these items as such, but on being “an international, multi- and interdisciplinary forum for the presentation, discussion and exchange of ideas, studies and resources dealing with Mediterranean and Nordic matters. In particular, though by no means exclusively,┬áNordicum-Mediterraneum wishes to be a venue for the exploration of the ties between Iceland and Italy: historical, cultural, economic, political, scientific, religious and artistic.”
  3. Over the years, NoMe has been striving to accommodate the policies and priorities of Iceland’s National Research Evaluation Committee (INREC), which ranks the local educational institutions’ scholarly and scientific journals also on the basis of how selective they are. Thus, while in 2011 about half of the received manuscripts could stand a chance of being published as double-blind peer-reviewed research articles, the forthcoming 2021 regular issue has accepted, emblematically, only one manuscript every four.

On top of the divergent pressures originating from DOAJ and INREC, it is important to consider as well the many years and the countless hours of unpaid volunteer work put into NoMe by its Editor-in-Chief and by the international network of experts serving qua unpaid referees, including the members of NoMe’s Editorial Board. As generous and as committed as all these men and women of high learning may be, it would be unrealistic and unwise to expect them to sustain an increase in annual regular issues, which would imply additional editorial work and heavier refereeing duties. Besides, despite being throughout its history without any budget whatsoever, without special funds, charging no fees of any kind to anyone, offering no direct economic incentives to its editorial team, and benefitting simply from the magnanimous electronic ‘hospitality’ of the University of Akureyri, NoMe has managed nonetheless to publish thirty-six issues between 2006 and 2020, both regular and special.

Still, DOAJ’s decision is a signal that we cannot ignore. Too many contradicting influences and divergent standardisation processes have to be dealt with and accommodated with one another. It is like being Carlo Goldoni’s eponymous Harlequin, servant of two, indeed more, masters. In the end, one or more of these influences and processes must be sacrificed, while others should be retained as pivotal. Henceforth, NoMe will return to its origins, trying to be more than ever that flexible, easily accessible, international forum that it wished to be upon its launch, and especially in the aims of its intellectual father, Dr Maurizio Tani of the University of Iceland. After this year’s regular issue, then, which is going to be followed by a special issue comprising, ironically, only double-blind peer-reviewed research articles about Polar Law and International Relations, the pace and the overall activities of NoMe will be reduced considerably. Iceland-based scholars interested in being involved in the day-to-day running of the journal and/or becoming its editor-in-chief will also be actively looked for. Select, occasional special issues may appear, albeit irregularly, while the backlog of scheduled book reviews will be brought to completion (and the same reviews subject to double blind peer review so as to meet the growing complexity of the bureaucracy surrounding OA publishing). DOI numbers will keep being requested from Iceland’s National & University Library, until all extant publications have received one. Hopefully, our readers will still grow in number, and the acknowledgment of the body of knowledge that we have been piling up for so many years shall become even more marked in the realm of direct references and citations. Finally, in 2022, we may re-apply for inclusion in DOAJ, provided that the formal requirements for inclusion have not changed and/or grown beyond our likely attainment, whether theirs or INREC’S (or both).