1. november 2010

Leading Humanities Journal Debuts 'Open' Peer Review

Getting published in a humanities journal usually works like this: Submit an article, then hope for the best as the editors send it to a few hand-picked specialists for critique. The reviewers and the authors are not supposed to know one another's identity.

But now scholars are asking whether this double-blind peer-review system is still the best way to pass judgment. The Internet makes it possible to share work with many people openly and simultaneously, so why not tap the public wisdom of a crowd? One of the top journals in literary studies, Shakespeare Quarterly, decided to put that question to the test.

For this year's fall issue, a special publication devoted to Shakespeare and new media, the journal offered contributors the chance to take part in a partially open peer-review process. Authors could opt to post drafts of their articles online, open them up for anyone to comment on, and then revise accordingly. The editors would make the final call about what to publish (hence the "partially open" label). As far as the editors know, it's the first time a traditional humanities journal has tried out a version of crowd-sourcing in lieu of double-blind review.

The verdict from several scholars who took part: mostly a thumbs up, with a few cautionary notes and a dollop of "It's about time" mixed in.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
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