Experiments in Peer Review for Journals

Today’s New York Times has a must-read article about the way some journals are beginning to experiment with the traditional peer-review process. Shakespeare Quarterly recently posted online recently submitted articles and asked for comments from users who would register on the journal’s site. Comments were then fed back to the authors, who revised their works accordingly and saw them ultimately published by the journal.

The Times article mentions Dan Cohen, a historian at George Mason University and who has helped develop the Zotero citation management software at the Center for History and New Media, whose critique of the traditional system is worth noting here:

Advocates of more open reviewing, like Mr. Cohen at George Mason argue that other important scholarly values besides quality control — for example, generating discussion, improving works in progress and sharing information rapidly — are given short shrift under the current system.

“There is an ethical imperative to share information,” said Mr. Cohen, who regularly posts his work online, where he said thousands read it. Engaging people in different disciplines and from outside academia has made his scholarship better, he said.

To Mr. Cohen, the most pressing intellectual issue in the next decade is this tension between the insular, specialized world of expert scholarship and the open and free-wheeling exchange of information on the Web. “And academia,” he said, “is caught in the middle.”

Cohen, Patricia. “Scholars Test Web Alternative to Peer Review.” The New York Times, 24 Aug. 2009. Web. 24 Aug. 2010.

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