NYU Press (NYUP) has been awarded a grant of $50,000 from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to develop and test a method of conducting open, public online peer-to-peer (P2P) review of scholarly monographs and journal articles. NYUP, which is part of the NYU Division of Libraries, will collaborate on the project with MediaCommons, a digital scholarly network affiliated with both NYU Libraries and the Institute for the Future of the Book.
“Peer review is considered the backbone of academic publishing,” said Carol A. Mandel, dean of the Division of Libraries. “It is the vetting process for the selection of publishable works and the means by which scholars offer critical feedback prior to publication. However, scholars today connect with their peers via the Internet, and they naturally want to extend their online networks to the peer review process.”
The outcome of the yearlong, Mellon-funded project will be a published white paper that will 1) assess the value and shortcomings of P2P review for the evaluation of scholarship, 2) serve as a roadmap for scholars and publishers, articulating criteria and protocols for conducting P2P review that are both rigorous and flexible enough to apply across disciplines; 3) identify the technical functionalities necessary to support these protocols; and 4) assess tools and platforms currently available for online peer review, and consider whether their functionalities will support our proposed protocols. The white paper will be made available for open peer review as part of its publication process.
Nicholas Mirzoeff, NYU professor of media, culture and communication and editor of The New Everyday, a MediaCommons project, said, "This grant opens the way to new means of developing and assessing scholarship on subjects ranging from Shakespeare to new media that harness the remarkable possibilities of Internet technologies while sustaining and indeed advancing standards. It has become clear that without such tools all the talk of interdisciplinary and collaborative studies in the humanities cannot advance, so the significance of this project is far more substantial than a traditional research grant." Mirzoeff has agreed to serve on the advisory group that will be assembled for the project.
MediaCommons, under the direction of its founding editors, Kathleen Fitzpatrick and Avi Santo, has emerged as a leading site for experimenting with and evaluating peer review in open scholarly networks. In fall 2009, NYUP and MediaCommons posted Fitzpatrick’s book, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing Technology, and the Future of the Academy, for open review, inviting critique from readers. At the same time, NYUP sent the work to its traditional peer reviewers, one of whom agreed to have her review posted for open review along with the manuscript. The Press will publish a revised version of the book in Fall 2011, and the open edition will remain available.
Together, MediaCommons and the Institute for the Future of the Book have conducted several key experiments in public peer review, including the 2008 blog-based review of Noah Wardrip-Fruin’s book, Expressive Processing, conducted in cooperation with MIT Press. In Spring 2010, MediaCommons undertook an open review trial on behalf of the journal Shakespeare Quarterly, assessing the contributions for its special issue on “Shakespeare and New Media” – a trial that the SQ editorial board considered so successful that they are repeating it for a special issue on “Shakespeare and Performance.”
The Mellon-funded project will be managed by Fitzpatrick, Santo, Eric Zinner, and Monica McCormick.
Kathleen Fitzpatrick a professor of Media Studies at Pomona College, in Claremont, CA. She is author of The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt University Press). She is co-coordinating editor of MediaCommons and blogs at Planned Obsolescence.
Avi Santo is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and Theatre Arts at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA. He is the author of Selling the Silver Bullet: Cross-Media Character Brand Management Prior to Conglomeration, forthcoming from the University of Texas Press. He is co-creator and co-coordinating editor of MediaCommons.
Eric Zinner is assistant director and editor in chief of NYU Press.
Monica McCormick is program officer for digital scholarly publishing at NYU, reporting jointly to the NYU Press and NYU Libraries.