In the August 17 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education is an article by Beth Mole, “The Future of Peer Review in the Humanities is Wide Open.” She focuses on Peter Sigal, a Duke University historian and one of the editors of the Hispanic American Historical Review. His journal is experimenting with an “optional open-review process”:
Authors who choose the open process will have their manuscripts–which the editors will pre-screen–available online for fellow scholars to review and discuss. To promote the new method, the first article the journal plans to review openly will be submitted and reviewed by hand-selected senior scholars in the field.
Mr. Sigal hopes that the manuscripts will attract extensive commentary that authors can then cite in the published version. “The idea is that knowledge production then becomes something much more collective,” Mr. Sigal says. “We think of the open peer-review process as helping both to produce knowledge in a more democratic way and to help disseminate knowledge.”
This is another confirmation of my line at the Modern Language Association annual meeting last January, “Blind peer review is dead; it just doesn’t know it yet” (the full talk transcript can be found here). Sigal and his fellow editors are certainly throwing a little more dirt on the coffin. And I applaud them.
When I said, in one of my first posts here, that we academics need to get out more, peer review was in the back of my mind. Getting out also means opening the doors leading in. We need to open as many of ours as possible, letting outsiders peer in (even outsiders within our profession–for we certainly do have something of a closed class structure in terms of peer review) while we step outside and blink in the sunlight.