Open Review and Learning how to be a Peer Reviewer

Before attempting peer review in an open access and digital format, I felt that understanding the current peer review process was important.

– How does one conduct a peer review now?  What are the goals, objectives, methodologies and metrics?

– How does an editor identify a peer in a field, and how does an editor decide to whom to send a prospective article for review?

– How does one become a peer reviewer, and how does one know what to look for when reviewing an article?

– What are the concerns (if any) of identifying peer reviewers, making the field too narrow or too broad?

– Are there set standards for reviewing an article (number of footnotes or sources, new theories or original research)?

Forgive me if this is a bit basic for the rest in the class.  But I realized that I knew how to find peer-reviewed articles, I actually had not idea how articles got to be peer-reviewed.  After doing a bit of perfunctory internet searching, I am still a bit uncertain of the exact mechanics.  Yes, I understand the purpose and how one identifies a peer-reviewed article or journal.  Admittedly, much of what is out there seems designed with the undergraduate or graduate student in mind, helping find appropriately peer-reviewed articles.

Open Review offered some thoughts that I found helpful.  “peer review in the humanities often focuses on originality, creativity, depth of argument, and the ability to communicate connections”.  (italics mine)

However, the actual process remains ambiguous to me.  I found this frustrating.  We can discuss the pros and cons of open review all we like, but until I understand what someone may be expecting from me when I attempt a peer review, I am going to be very hesitant to do so.  This also played into my hesitancy regarding the assignment to comment on Open Review.  My thought – what could I possibly have to say that would contribute to this conversation?  I do not feel like a peer at all right now, and have no desire to appear foolish or silly as a young (figuratively speaking, of course!) graduate student trying to be something I’m not (a peer).

Please do not take my comments above as reflective on the Open Review concept generically.   I think the potential to broaden the academic discussion to include more peer review(er)s, to lessen the impact of negative comments/reviews and to make the peer review process more transparent are all tremendous advances.  More reviewers are good, since this opens the avenue to a more diverse perspective.  Deepening the academic discussion prior to “publication” (whatever that means) seems like a fantastic idea.

Why would we not want to get these conversations out there?  And, would not part of the validation of a good argument/theory/research be the interest demonstrated in an article as part of this Open Review process?  If something generates so much interest that many people are reviewing it, could that not be part reason to publish?

This also might offer the opportunity for younger scholars to learn how to review others’ work, and how to act like peers in their field.  If we all aspire to become colleagues to the ones we now call “professor”, should we not learn some of the other intricacies to the field (other than completing our dissertations)?  The only way to learn how to do something (at some point) is to do it.

This is the primary reason I would support identifying reviewers.  I think the writer should know exactly who is reviewing her work – what their credentials are, how long they have been in the field, what their particular perspective is.  I understand the drawbacks.  Certainly, scholars might not take younger scholars seriously.  And the fact that senior scholars might hold a younger scholar’s comments against her is disgraceful.  As long as one remains respectful, professional and civil, I do not see any reason why we cannot have an adult discussion about our writing and research.

And how wonderful would it be for the younger scholars to be able to offer fresh perspectives!  I envision great potential collaboration between younger and more senior scholars – the new outlooks combined with years of research and experience.  Perhaps that is too naïve.  Ah, but I will remain a younger scholar (figuratively, of course!) and maintain my naivety for a while longer.



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