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Getting published in a humanities journal usually works like this: Submit an article, then hope for the best as the editors send it to a few hand-picked specialists for critique. The reviewers and the authors are not supposed to know one another’s identity.
But now scholars are asking whether this double-blind peer-review system is still the best way to pass judgment. The Internet makes it possible to share work with many people openly and simultaneously, so why not tap the public wisdom of a crowd? One of the top journals in literary studies, Shakespeare Quarterly, decided to put that question to the test.
For this year’s fall issue, a special publication devoted to Shakespeare and new media, the journal offered contributors the chance to take part in a partially open peer-review process. Authors could opt to post drafts of their articles online, open them up for anyone to comment on, and then revise accordingly. The editors would make the final call about what to publish (hence the „partially open“ label). As far as the editors know, it’s the first time a traditional humanities journal has tried out a version of crowd-sourcing in lieu of double-blind review.
The verdict from several scholars who took part: mostly a thumbs up, with a few cautionary notes and a dollop of „It’s about time“ mixed in.
Nature hatte 2006 ebenfalls ein solches Experiment unternommen, das aber scheiterte:
Die Projektseite des geisteswissenschaftlichen Versuchs ist frei zugänglich:
Ms. Rowe invited about 90 scholars, including Northwestern’s Mr. Mueller, to comment. Anybody willing to publish thoughts under his or her own name could join in, but the guest editor wanted recognized authorities as part of the field.
„‚What’s the nature of expertise?‘ is one of the questions that really gets opened up by an open process,“ Ms. Rowe said. „Everybody wanted to be sure that experts would be involved.“ By her count, about 40 commenters, invited and self-selected, finally participated.