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
That’s such a great point. One thing I love about the past open peer reviews I mentioned in my #mla19 talk was that so many of them are still up on the web. So, we have great examples on hand, and we can find specific moments within them to point people towards. #OPReview
IMO, the challenge, like with many things, whether the ‘system’ acknowledges self-published forms – whether individuals have the right to exercise their autonomy. If not, we’re confined to someone else’s idea of ‘review’ eg. the “shape” and so forth. #OPReview #LinkedResearch #A1
— Sarven Capadisli (@csarven) January 9, 2019
- Q2: Which values should guide open peer review? How should these values be enacted and communicated? #OPReview #Q2
— Rachel Starry (@rachellstarry) January 9, 2019
#OPReview #Q2 Values of open review are, as someone already mentioned, transparency. But also mentorship of authors. A rejection of gatekeeping in the trad sense of rejection rates for publishing. Purposeful to build communities of scholars.
- Q3: How does open peer review affect the quality of reviews? Of the final publication? #OPReview #Q3
OPR also allowed me to see reviewers in dialogue (and sometimes disagreement) with one another. And it allowed me to give appropriate credit to reviewers for their contributions to my work! #OPReview #A3
It’s good for the authors (and editors) to see the disagreements in action and sometimes they even get resolved in the course of the conversation. Writing is HARD. Revision is HARD. But the final products take multiple reader perspectives into acct with #OPReview #A3
- Q4: What are the limitations of open peer review? What are the barriers to more journals and scholarly communities adopting it? #OPReview #Q4
#OPReview A4 I think it’s largely lack of experience with it and ingrained practice. Many have been indoctrinated into the idea of blind review as the “gold standard”–and who doesn’t want to be golden?😏
— john edward martin (@PassableGhost) January 9, 2019
#OPReview A4 One of the biggest points of resistance I’ve run into is reviewers who want to remain anonymous bc they either fear retaliation or bc they don’t want to have to be civil.
— Dr Kendra Preston Leonard (@K_Leonard_PhD) January 9, 2019
- Q5: What are the future potentials of open peer review? How could it be improved in the future? #OPReview #Q5
#OPReview #A5, you may have discussed this earlier, but I think encouraging diff models of OPR can lead to greater adoption. For ex, OPR for Debates in DH is diff from OPR for JITP (open to author but not w/other reviewers)
— Sheila Brennan (@SheilaABrennan) January 9, 2019
For years I’ve wanted synchronous peer review of a project/article. Why not get 5 board members together for happy hour and have them look at and discuss the text in the moment? I’m betting a majority of the comments would be the same as if we lingered for hours #OPReview #A5
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.