Future of Academic Editing

The Aporetic:

But peer review is a crush­ingly slow, turgid process. Estab­lished in the age when mail was deliv­ered in horse cars, and no one expected or any­thing like fast com­mu­ni­ca­tion, it coasts along on an ear­lier generation’s low expec­ta­tions. Peer review is hard work for the reviewer, and more impor­tant, it’s both uncom­pen­sated and, for the most part, extremely unre­ward­ing. You get noth­ing for your efforts except per­haps some books and a thank you. It’s a pro­fes­sional oblig­a­tion, not a pro­fes­sional pleasure.

Sup­pose the edi­tor were more like a moderator–someone who set an agenda, or a sub­ject, and then over­saw discussion?

Sup­pose the job of edit­ing and com­ment­ing looked more like this? Mod­er­ated, live inter­ac­tions, and an ongo­ing dis­cus­sion among peers. An edi­tor might choose one arti­cle a week. He or she would post the arti­cle with a com­ment on its merits/weaknesses. Read­ers could then com­ment in real time, act­ing as peer review­ers, with the edi­tor act­ing to “prune” and police the com­ments. All read­ers would see opin­ion evolv­ing, and see the process of peer review in action.

Or sup­pose the pro­fes­sion adopted the model used in “layer ten­nis.” Dan Cohen has blogged about this: in this model a graphic designer sets up a prob­lem in design, an then two graphic design­ers bat designs back an forth. Designer one posts his ver­sion, designer two posts his: they engage in a dia­logue about the design and their goals. The exchange is mod­er­ated, designs com­mented upon; new ver­sions sub­mit­ted, and the process continues.

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