Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Open Peer Review

A central goal for Humanities Commons has always been to provide humanities scholars with a platform for communicating, sharing work, and collaborating. Beyond simply facilitating these processes––a significant task in itself––we strive to innovate on them, pushing for scholarship that is more open and engaged with communities. Often, this means rethinking the assumptions and practices that produce our work.

It was this desire to reimagine scholarly practice that led us to host a Twitter chat last month titled “Rethinking Scholarly Communication: Open Peer Review.” Twitter chats are synchronous social media events where moderators guide discussion of a topic using a particular hashtag. At the set time, everyone logs in to Twitter and follows the hashtag, answering questions and responding to each other’s thoughts as they’re shared through tweets. The goal of this Twitter chat was to generate community discussion of emerging peer review structures that are open, meaning the authors and reviewers of a work know who each other are and communicate about the work, usually with the facilitation of an editor or editorial team. While what this exactly looks like varies from publication to publication, most journals and organizations using open peer review put the author and the reviewers in contact with each other using a digital platform, allowing reviews to make comments and the author to respond to them in the process of revising the work for publication.

As the handful of questions and tweets below reveal, the discussion of open peer review covered many aspects of scholarly communication and how review contributes to clear and effective scholarship. Open peer review is a significant departure from traditional peer review, often described as double-blind or single-blind peer review (ableist terms that Cheryl Ball points out could be replaced with “double anonymous” and “anonymous”). Whereas double anonymous or anonymous peer review can often seem opaque, exclusionary, and even arbitrary, especially to early career scholars, open peer review makes the review process about a conversation that focuses on improving the work. As several participants argued, particular values and guidelines should shape that conversation with an emphasis on community and mentorship.

The tweets below are just a small sample of the Twitter chat. To view the rest of the chat, as well as check out more resources about open peer review, search for the chat’s hashtag, #OPReview, on Twitter.

  • Q1: What does open peer review look like in your experience? Which practices and tools are involved? #OPReview #Q1

 

  • Q2: Which values should guide open peer review? How should these values be enacted and communicated? #OPReview #Q2

 

  • Q3: How does open peer review affect the quality of reviews? Of the final publication? #OPReview #Q3

 

  • Q4: What are the limitations of open peer review? What are the barriers to more journals and scholarly communities adopting it? #OPReview #Q4

 

  • Q5: What are the future potentials of open peer review? How could it be improved in the future? #OPReview #Q5

 

The Twitter chat generated lively conversation about the values of scholarship, and collectively imagined what it would look like to publish our work as the result of open, transparent, and ongoing conversations between scholars. Of course open peer review isn’t a cure-all, and there are a number of institutional considerations (tenure, power, and workload, to name only a few) that limit what peer review can be and do. Still, open peer review can be one tool for research and scholarship that is more accessible and inclusive. This Twitter chat is not the last word on open peer review–far from it. Rather, it’s a point in an ongoing conversation that we can and must have together as we work to build the institutions and research practices that can sustain our communities.

Thanks to Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Cody Mejeur for moderating the chat. Kathleen is Director of Digital Humanities and Professor of English at Michigan State University. Her most recent book, Generous Thinking: A Radical Approach to Saving the University (John Hopkins University Press, 2019), argues for a mode of scholarly engagement that emphasizes listening over speaking, community over individualism, and collaboration over competition. She is also project director of Humanities Commons. Cody is a PhD candidate in English at Michigan State University specializing in new media, narrative theory, queer and feminist studies, and digital humanities. They have published on games and education, representation in games, and the narrative construction of reality. They are currently graduate lab lead for the Digital Humanities & Literary Cognition lab at MSU and work with the LGBTQ Video Game Archive, founded by Adrienne Shaw at Temple University.

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