[Humanist] 27.391 peer review

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Oct 2 08:26:59 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 391.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Tue, 1 Oct 2013 20:47:47 +0100
        From: "James O'Sullivan" <josullivan.c at gmail.com>
        Subject: Re:  27.389 peer review
        In-Reply-To: <20131001053222.F33D130A2 at digitalhumanities.org>

Dear Barbara,

There's various open models, but I admit that I've only ever had experience
with blind processes. The majority of them, as you have pointed out, are
based on the idea that reviewer identities are also visible. I agree with
your position that we require a system where "every individual takes
responsibility for what they write". Whether or not this would be feasible
for the ADHO, I don't know, but it's a position that should certainly be

The consensus seems to be that reviewers are capable of identifying
authors. But I wonder as the popularity of the discipline grows, will this
continue to be the case? Where reviewers can identify authors, there will
always be doubt in relation to a selection process, and as unrealistic as
it might seem to achieve a completely fair process, surely it is in the
best interest of the discipline and community at large to at least try an
implement a system that strives to offer either complete anonymity or

To my mind there simply isn't any advantage to a single blind review
process. Ok, perhaps reviewers can identify authors, but why not take
measures to at least make this more difficult? Or, take the converse
approach as Barbara suggests, and ensure that reviewers are as visible as
authors, so as to ensure transparency across the board?

It's certainly food for thought and something that I think should be
discussed in a more official capacity by the powers that be.

Thanks to all for the informed responses - a pleasure as always!

Best regards,

On Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 6:32 AM, Humanist Discussion Group <
willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:

>                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 389.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                        www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                 Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>         Date: Mon, 30 Sep 2013 09:51:11 -0600
>         From: Barbara Bordalejo <bb268 at nyu.edu>
>         Subject: Re:  27.387 peer review
>         In-Reply-To: <20130930053844.B6C8930A0 at digitalhumanities.org>
> Hi James,
> I think you make some very good points, but I wish you had elaborated more
> on the "open process" you suggest. I have some experience editing a journal
> for which we used blind peer review, a process that I was responsible for
> setting up. The problem, as Martin has already pointed out, is that
> sometimes it is very evident who wrote a paper. A further problem is that
> some reviewers seem to "enjoy" to discover who wrote what or to confirm a
> suspicion about the identity of an author. So, when these factors are taken
> into account it is very difficult to sustain a "blind" process (although we
> might want to pretend that everything is fine). Double blind review does
> not help much either, as it is generally carried out by the same group of
> established academics.
> I am not sure what you had in mind with the open process, but what I would
> like to see is the end of a blind review process that is only in place to
> protect the reviewers or even to allow people to exert petty vengeances or
> advance themselves. My preference would be a completely open system in
> which every individual takes responsibility for what they write (positive
> or negative) about anyone else's work. If we could implement a completely
> open process reviewers would have to be much more mindful about what they
> write and would have to question themselves all the time: are my comments
> constructive and can they lead to an improvement of this piece? Is *my own
> argument* supported by the evidence? Am I being fair? Is there a conflict
> of interests here? Are their personal feelings involved in my review? Will
> the majority of my colleagues see my objections as fair?
> When I write a review (or an article, or even a message to this or other
> distribution lists) I ask myself whether if this text were to be available
> in future years I would feel OK about it. I want to be able to sign my
> writings knowing that I have tried to do my best, but that my best is not
> achieved by preventing others to take part in the community or by being
> destructive or negative just for the sake of it.
> The academic world would be much better if we asked scholars to own their
> words.
> Best,
> BB

*James O'Sullivan *
@jamescosullivan  http://twitter.com/jamescosullivan **
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