¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 [1.2] Mario Biagioli compellingly argues for an understanding of peer review as not simply productive of disciplinarity in an intellectual sense, but as a Foucauldian mode of disciplining knowledge itself, a mode that is “simultaneously repressive, productive, and constitutive” of academic ways of knowing (11). He pertinently distinguishes Foucault’s discplinary reference points in medicine and the prison from the discipline of peer review, however, as only in the academy do we find “that the roles of the disciplined and the discipliner are often reversed during one’s career” (12), indicating the ways that peer review functions as a self-perpetuating disciplinary system, inculcating the objects of discipline into becoming its subjects.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 [1.5] See Cohen. Many pro-Wikipedia commentators responded to the Middlebury ban by noting, quite sensibly, that college students shouldn’t be citing encyclopedias in the first place. The locus of most of the concern about Wikipedia in this case, however, was the fact that “anyone” can edit its entries.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 [1.7] The creators of Citizendium claim that they hope to create a “an enormous, free, and reliable encyclopedia,” which “aims to improve on the Wikipedia model by adding ‘gentle expert oversight’ and requiring contributors to use their real names.” The suggestion, of course, is that authority demands such expert guidance, and expert status is conferred through traditional modes of authorization. See Citizendium, CZ:About.
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 [1.8] Janice Radway has argued that the rise of professionalization in the academy “had everything to do with specialization, with the growing emphasis on laboratory research, and with the creation of a communications infrastructure that enabled the publication, circulation, and discussion of research results not only among peers but within a larger society called upon to finance such research, to support it with students, and to understand its value” (217), thus reminding scholars that our very professional existences (and the support that we need in order to maintain such existences) may be dependent not just upon communication amongst ourselves, but on the inclusion of a broader public in that communication, such that they understand the value of academic ways of knowing.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 [1.9] See also Harnad, who presents many of the same concerns: “Every editor of a learned journal, commentary journal or not, is in a position to sample what the literature would have looked like if everything had appeared without review. Not only would a vanity press of raw manuscripts be unnavigable, but the brave souls who had nothing better to do than to sift through all that chaff and post their commentaries to guide us would be the last ones to trust for calibrating one’s finite reading time” (291). The implication, of course, is that without the power to determine whether a manuscript can be published or not, the prestige will drain out of the reviewing process, leaving scholars with only the opinions expressed by the hoi polloi.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 [1.10] One might in particular note Roy and Ashburn, who indicate that it was not in spite of but rather due to the peer review process that published studies of the anti-inflammatory drugs Celebra and Vioxx excluded data about those drugs’ potential for causing heart damage. One might also see the revelation on The Scientist that Elsevier published six fake journals, and that Merck paid the publisher “to produce several volumes of a publication that had the look of a peer-reviewed medical journal, but contained only reprinted or summarized articles – most of which presented data favorable to Merck products” (Grant, “Merck”).
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 [1.11] See, for instance, Fabiato, Meyers, Rennie, and Spier, among others, all of whom draw heavily from David Kronick’s two-page “Peer Review in 18th-Century Scientific Journalism.”
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 [1.12] Given the overwhelming focus on the institution of peer review in the sciences, it might be worth asking whether the adoption by the humanities of this same mode of assessment is further evidence of the desire to transform our fields into “human sciences,” no doubt as a defense against claims – put forward with the greatest impact in university budgets – that our work is insufficiently rigorous and serious to be considered “research.”
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 [1.13] Prior to the establishment of this committee, the selection of manuscripts was in the sole hands of the society’s secretary; this moment of transition was important both in the history of the society and of academic publishing, as this was the first time that the society made a public claim of its affiliation with and responsibility for the journal.
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 [1.14] See Kronick, “Peer Review.” However, note that Kronick indicates in Devant le Deluge that more than 20 percent of the attributed papers published in the journal while Alexander Monro was editor (1731 forward) were in fact written by Monro himself (181).
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 [1.17] See Kronick, Devant le Deluge, in which he suggests that the letter “represented a form in which a scientific article could be disseminated for comment and may be considered equivalent to reading a paper at a scientific meeting before submitting it to a publisher or editor for peer review” (268).
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 [1.18] See Burnham and Spier; see also Weller 3-6 for a suggestive list of scientific journals and the moments and modes in which they adopted editorial peer review.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 [1.19] It’s worth noting the challenge posed to this already quite open system by a new pre-print server named viXra; according to a recent story on Physicsworld.com, viXra removes any restrictions on the kinds of papers that can be uploaded. Scholars associated with viXra allege that some researchers have been blocked from uploading papers based on the moderators’ sense that their work is too speculative, or that their papers have been “dumped” in the generic “physics” category, where they’re unlikely to be found and read. See Cartwright; see also “Why viXra?”
¶ 22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 [1.22] An exception to this state of affairs generally appears in scholarly book publishing, though only if the editor has decided based upon the reviews to take the manuscript to the press’s editorial board for approval. In that case, the author’s response to the reviews is requested; however, this response is generally directed not to the readers, but to the board, further complicating the flow of conversation.
¶ 23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 [1.23] Peters and Ceci specifically rule out the possibility that reviewers felt the work to be somehow redundant with the existing literature, even if they couldn’t recall the exact source, as no indication of such appears in the reviewers’ reports.
¶ 24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 [1.24] Godlee suggests thirty years later that science has, since the time of Peters and Ceci’s experiment, become “less clubby and more competitive” (72), while nonetheless indicating that reviewer bias with respect to the institutional prestige of an author remains operative.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 [1.27] A qualifier that points to a need for much further exploration of the different requirements with respect to peer review in the different disciplines. A study conducted by Zuckerman and Merton in 1971 investigated the differing outcomes of peer review across disciplines, noting that the rejection rate in the humanities was far higher than that in the social or natural sciences. More recently, a story in the Chronicle of Higher Education described the results of a forthcoming report by a committee organized by the National Humanities Alliance, entitled “The Future of Scholarly Journals Publishing Among Social Science and Humanities Associations,” which points to a couple of compelling findings: first, that the per-article cost of journal publishing in the humanities and social sciences is more than three times as much as in the science, technical, and medical (a.k.a. STM) fields, and second, that this increased cost is due in no small part to the increased selectivity of those journals. Where the STM journals under study (which seem to be primarily the official journals of learned societies) have an acceptance rate of around 42 percent, the humanities and social science journals publish about 11 percent of submissions. These figures might suggest the importance for the humanities of a continuing review of its communication and credentialing processes.
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 [1.28] This concern about the shift in responsibility for reviewing the work of younger scholars is echoed in the final report of the MLA Task Force on Evaluating Scholarship for Tenure and Promotion, which, while at pains to dissociate the reliance on press judgments from peer review itself, nonetheless acknowledges that “this apparatus of external peer review also created the conditions whereby individual departments can practically abdicate their responsibility to review the scholarly work of the very colleagues they have appointed to tenure- track positions” (56).
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 [1.29] Recent controversies between the so-called “deletionist” and “inclusionist” Wikipedians complicate Anderson’s model significantly, of course. See “The Battle for Wikipedia’s Soul.”
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 [1.30] Perhaps needless to say, this is far from an uncontroversial stance. One crucial bit of debate arose around the figure of Essjay, a high-ranking editor who presented himself as “a tenured professor of religion at a private university,” though in actuality he held no advanced degrees. When asked whether a figure like Essjay posed a problem for Wikipedia’s credibility, founder Jimmy Wales said that he had no problem with the invented persona: “I regard it as a pseudonym and I don’t really have a problem with it.” See Schiff.
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 [1.32] This footnote should be read as an acknowledgment of the issues that my use of “he” in describing this system highlights; Slashdot is felt by many to be a highly male-dominated, if not downright misogynist, environment. One might, for instance, see what happens in the comment thread when a poster asks for advice on handling being the lone woman working for an IT firm (“Breaking Gender Cliques at Work”). As we think about peer- to-peer review, it will be important to consider the ways that network effects bring out both the best and the worst in the communities they connect.
Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0
[1.34] Schwartz should certainly understand the value of trust in the digital world, given the need to rebuild its reputation that Sun faced after the dot-com bust; see Falkow. Schwartz’s phrase has become the tagline for the
Open Media Commons service operated by Sun; see Open Media Commons.
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 [1.37] See, for instance, discussions of Google’s PageRank algorithm, which arguably measures popularity of pages through an analysis of inbound links (Regalado), but which others interpret as “inherently conservative,” granting further authority to the already popular (Vaidhyanathan, “Where Is This Book Going?”).
¶ 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 [1.38] The comparison to eBay is perhaps a bit unfortunate, resulting in faintly crass images of intellectual commerce, but there’s something apt in the relationship as well, suggesting that electronic scholarly publishing might function as a locus for the exchange of ideas in which producers and consumers can find one another without the need for an intermediary. Lindsay Waters, however, argues that the marketplace “is not a concept that should be considered the ultimate framework for the free play of ideas” (9). See also Shatz for a more elaborated argument against the marketplace metaphor.
¶ 40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 [1.40] Numerous pundits insisted that opening Facebook to any user might, in the end, prove to be the service’s undoing, though many were primarily lamenting their loss of exclusivity. danah boyd, however, has argued that the success of social networking systems has largely hinged on the ability to control the social context in which one’s profile appears. See boyd, “Viewing American Class Distinctions” and “Loss of Context.”
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 [1.41] As I’ll discuss in chapter 2, however, one of the most exciting aspects of a digital publishing environment such as the one the electronic version of this text will be published in is that the text will be updatable in order to reflect MediaCommons’s actual state, and yet versionable, to preserve for the historical record what I’d thought it would look like at this point in time.
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 [1.42] Beyond this, of course, lies user frustration with the sudden overflow of Facebook applications that resulted when the site developers opened up the system’s API. In very short order, Facebook went from being a focused and contained, if limited, platform to a wild mishmash of annoying and seemingly pointless content. Perhaps a peer-to-peer reviewing system for Facebook apps — a community-based filtering system — might have helped stem the overflow; see Iskold.
¶ 43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 [1.43] A brief note to acknowledge another difficulty in the system I am proposing: it will require a phenomenal amount of labor on the part of all scholars as readers and discussants of one another’s work. That having been said, it might also be worth pointing out that such labor is already being done, arguably in a less-equitably distributed fashion; review is certainly a function within which we’d do well to draw upon the “wisdom of the crowds,” particularly as there are far more potential readers for any given text than two or three select reviewers, and as such crowd-sourced review will enable us to see how critical opinion of a text develops over time.
¶ 44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 [1.44] See, as only two among many possible citations, Seglen and Richard Smith. Don Brenneis has likewise drawn my attention to the grave concern in the UK about chancellor Gordon Brown’s decision to replace the Research Assessment Exercise, which previously determined funding for British universities, with a very narrow set of metrics including citation indexes; see Alexandra Smith.