The Care-ful Reviewer: Peer Review as if People Mattered | Pop!
flavoursofopenscience's bookmarks 2022-12-05
by John W. Maxwell
For many years now, the open social scholarship community in Canada has examined its practices and capacities for scholarly communication in the digital age, both in terms of making the scholarly discourse richer, more efficient, and more responsive, and with an eye to making scholarly discourse in the humanities more relevant and interesting to audiences outside our specific disciplines and indeed the academy itself. Attention to "new knowledge environments" has proved both fruitful and inspiring, but the scholarly community remains rooted in a set of very traditional scholarly communications forms/practices: conference presentations, journal articles, and books. These traditional forms are rooted in---even arguably constitutionally defined by---peer review practices. Whether these traditional forms have bright futures in the digital age is a topic for another discussion, but it seems fair to argue that peer review itself is and will continue to be a constitutional component of scholarly communications.
What to make of peer review, then? As an artifact largely of the twentieth century and the late age of print, we might expect its role to shift in new, digital formats and genres, and its form and function to be responsive to disciplinary and methodological innovations. And yet, there is a sense in which peer review remains a stubborn, poorly understood, and ritualized practice. We generally lack good conceptual models of the what, the how, and the why of peer review practices, even as we consistently uphold their centrality to scholarly work.
As such, this essay is an exploration of peer review in theory and practice, and an attempt to work out what it might mean in the context of the humanities specifically, and especially in terms of open social scholarship. In this essay, I take the scholarly journal as the fundamental case, and as such much of the discussion that follows is an appraisal and attempted re-imagining of some fairly conventional forms. My aim here is not to praise or condemn peer review itself, nor any particular flavour or format of it in practice. Rather, the goal is to understand what peer review might ideally be for in open, humanities scholarship: how we might think about it, how to identify the precepts upon which our practices might be founded, and indeed, where its heart lies.