SSH scholars publish books, or it is possibly better to say that humanities scholars publish books. This is the mantra, and whilst not totally challenging it, it might be useful to look at the reality behind the mantra so as to ask who publishes what, where and why, and also whether some should just simply stop wasting paper.
The problem with evaluating books within an academic framework is that much policy is external to institution and fails to take into account discipline specificities, the needs of researchers, local and national factors and even the global environment in which academic research is carried out. It is therefore useful to look globally at the university system taking into account local and national needs to see how policy affects those institutions and how policy may, or may not, take into account the needs of the actual disciplines, and this can only be done through looking at an inclusive database., as that of RIBAC (CNRS) or IMPRESSH.
In research terms, much policy is poorly informed with potentially harmful results, so-called internationalisation, publisher lists, open access, are all issues coming from outside disciplines and which require a serious rethink before being taken up or imposed. Even within national contexts problems arise from a failure to look globally at research output, as for instance in recruitment procedures where a monograph becomes a shibboleth, forcing people to publish immature works. The pressure leads to premature publication of theses, having recourse to pay-to- publish outfits that often have no quality assessment procedures and will never seriously disseminate the work. Next comes the imposition of open access for books, something which, whilst being of great potential value in some areas, is clearly impossible in others, but still being imposed by funding institutions without even the vaguest notion of feasibility. Such policy often totally ignores both publishing practice and the needs of book-oriented disciplines.
By taking a more global picture of books in the humanities, I shall discuss the evaluation of research, how it effects policy, and also how the system can be improved. I shall illustrate my stance by reference to French HCERES evaluation system, the qualitative analyses from the IMPRESSH (France) and RobinBa (Italy) research projects as well as with reference to my own disciplines of lexicography and corpus linguistics. In terms of university policy, I shall make special reference to France, as it is the system I know best. I shall also discuss the role of the EvalHum association, and, to an extent, that of the ENRESSH COST action. The views, however, are my own.