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This Just In — From the NY Times: Scholars Test Web Alternative to Peer Review

Friends … thought this article in today’s NY Times would be of interest.  It’s about the impact of the web on traditional peer review practices.  Interesting that Shakespeare Quarterly has been in the vanguard of opening up the peer review process.  Link to the full article and a few clips from the article below.  Matthew

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/arts/24peer.html

SNIP

That transformation was behind the recent decision by the prestigious 60-year-old Shakespeare Quarterly to embark on an uncharacteristic experiment in the forthcoming fall issue — one that will make it, Ms. Rowe says, the first traditional humanities journal to open its reviewing to the World Wide Web.

Mixing traditional and new methods, the journal posted online four essays not yet accepted for publication, and a core group of experts — what Ms. Rowe called “our crowd sourcing” — were invited to post their signed comments on the Web site MediaCommons, a scholarly digital network. Others could add their thoughts as well, after registering with their own names. In the end 41 people made more than 350 comments, many of which elicited responses from the authors. The revised essays were then reviewed by the quarterly’s editors, who made the final decision to include them in the printed journal, due out Sept. 17.

The Shakespeare Quarterly trial, along with a handful of other trailblazing digital experiments, goes to the very nature of the scholarly enterprise. Traditional peer review has shaped the way new research has been screened for quality and then how it is communicated; it has defined the border between the public and an exclusive group of specialized experts.

SNIP

The most daunting obstacle to opening up the process is that peer-review publishing is the path to a job and tenure, and no would-be professor wants to be the academic canary in the coal mine.

The first question that Alan Galey, a junior faculty member at the University of Toronto, asked when deciding to participate in The Shakespeare Quarterly’s experiment was whether his essay would ultimately count toward tenure. “I went straight to the dean with it,” Mr. Galey said. (It would.)

Although initially cautious, Mr. Galey said he is now “entirely won over by the open peer review model.” The comments were more extensive and more insightful, he said, than he otherwise would have received on his essay, which discusses Shakespeare in the context of information theory.

About Matthew Cossolotto

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