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A Study of Contexts and Practices

Executive Summary

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year, MediaCommons and NYU Press jointly undertook a study of technologies, practices, and desires for open review, or peer-to-peer review, in humanities-based scholarly communication, with an emphasis on review occurring in digital environments. We assembled an advisory panel that met three times to discuss (a) the merits and pitfalls associated with open review, (b) the desirability of open review for certain types of communities and works, (c) criteria and parameters needed to organize and conduct successful open review, (d) technological requirements for meeting open review criteria, and (e) technologies currently available that can help meet criteria set forth by scholarly communities. The overall objective of these meetings was to help develop a set of community protocols and technical specifications that would help systematize open peer review and ensure that it met both academic expectations for rigor and the digital humanities’ embrace of the openness made possible by social networks and other digital platforms.  The advisory panel consisted of six scholars with divergent interests and investments in the digital humanities, ranging from champions of open review to skeptics, and they also came from diverse disciplinary backgrounds within the humanities: Cheryl Ball, associate professor of new media studies, Illinois State University; Dan Cohen, associate professor of history and director of the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, George Mason University; Cathy Davidson, Ruth F. DeVarney Professor of English, Duke University; Lisa Gitelman, associate professor of media and English, New York University; Nicholas Mirzoeff, professor of media, culture, and communication, New York University; Sidonie Smith, professor of English and women’s studies, University of Michigan. In addition, meetings were attended by MediaCommons’ co-creators Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Avi Santo as well as by NYU Press editor-in-chief, Eric Zinner and NYU Digital Scholarly Publishing Officer, and liaison between NYU Libraries and NYU Press, Monica McCormick.

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 2 Based on these meetings, Fitzpatrick and Santo drafted the following white paper, which will be subjected to two levels of open review: first by our advisory panel, with whom we shared a draft through Google Docs, and then by a diverse set of actors debating questions of digital publishing, including digital humanities scholars, university publishers, and librarians. The second group reviewed a draft of the white paper in CommentPress. Fitzpatrick and Santo will provide guidelines for reviewers and will incorporate community feedback into the next draft of the white paper.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 1 Ultimately, the conclusions we reached following the three meetings, which are reflected in this white paper, are: (a) Open review is neither a new practice nor one driven by technological innovation, but rather it has been at the center of humanities-based scholarly practice since the very beginning, via the presentation of conference and working papers, as well as other in-process forms of scholar-to-scholar communications. (b) The form and function of such review practices are dictated by community goals and needs, which in turn drive the technologies that are selected and used. Moreover, in the current era, (c) no single set of tools or rules can be imposed on open review. Such an imposition would be detrimental to the ethos of “openness” that is one of open review’s primary strengths. Instead, (d) parameters and platforms for open review must be developed with an eye toward “structured flexibility,” wherein communities of practice set their own announced standards for review, depending on the desired outcome of their work, by answering a set of core questions about process, review criteria, and community interactions and then selecting platform functionalities that allow those standards to be applied. Therefore, (e) the test of open review’s “rigor” comes from determining how closely community members, including editors, authors and reviewers, adhere to their publicly-stated parameters. Finally, (f) in focusing on the need for communities of practice to develop their own flexible and yet structured process for open review, we mean to indicate that such practices can be applied successfully to a range of products such as monographs, journal articles, or multimedia essays; indeed we assert that open review processes are capable of producing the best kinds of humanities scholarship: those that promote critical dialogue amongst communities of practice. We recognize that by embracing such flexibility, we are advocating for something far more complex than would be available in a centralized or monolithic system. Yet only such complexity can provide for the nuance that we believe functional open review systems will require.

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Source: http://mcpress.media-commons.org/open-review/executive-summary/