Together with some colleagues I set up an International Network for Theory of History (INTH) which aims to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas among historical theorists worldwide. After having talked about it for a long time, we started intensively preparing the establishment of the network in 2011 and finally launched it early 2012. Because our research field is very fragmented — with many scholars working in different linguistic and academic traditions, often at the periphery of long-established academic disciplines and frequently in relative isolation — we wanted our network to be as inclusive as possible. We figured it was best not to define in advance what should be considered as historical theory and what not. Rather we wanted to take a community-based approach in which potential participants would identify themselves, their/our field and its main problems and potentialities.
It was clear to us from the start that we would need a wide range of digital tools: we definitely needed a website, we wanted an online community-based bibliography for which we used Zotero, wanted a worldwide directory of researchers for which people could make their own member-pages, we wanted a news function based on a blog-structure to which people could freely contribute, etc.
Yet, the very openness and community-based character of our network and its digital tools also posed some challenges: mainly evolving around the question how we could guarantee a certain qualitative standard and a certain thematic coherence to our network. A lot of dilemmas, some of which we think we solved, while other remain on the table. I would like to share our findings and am very interested in any of your ideas on how to solve particular problems concerning a community based research network.