New Form of Peer Review At New Philosophy Journal

The Public Philosophy Journal (PPJ) has published its inaugural issue. The editors describe the journal as “an open forum for the curation and creation of accessible scholarship that deepens our understanding of, deliberation about, and action concerning issues of public relevance,” and have instituted a novel form of peer review they think fits better with the journal’s mission.

They call it “formative peer review,” and describe it as “a structured form of peer engagement rooted in trust and a shared commitment to improving the work through candid and collegial feedback” between the persons submitting material to the journal (the “composers”), peer review coordinators, and “complementary reviewers” who “provide feedback to composers and help shape the work for a broader public audience.” During the process,

peer reviewers and composers are able to view and engage each other’s comments in conversation during the review process. Coordinators play an active and vital role in that conversation, ensuring that it unfolds in a collegial and caring way. They stimulate ongoing dialogue between composers and peer reviewers by encouraging composers to respond more thoroughly to reviewer feedback, and encouraging reviewers to provide persistent support to composers as their works advance toward publication.

In an essay in the inaugural issue, co-founder and editor-in-chief Christopher P. Long (Michigan State) writes that the formative peer review process is

designed to create a culture of shared scholarly practice between a composer-nominated reviewer who is publicly engaged with the work addressed by the submission, the composer, and a complementary reviewer identified by the peer review coordinator.

The reviews are structured around four basic concerns: (1) the relevance of the work to the public with which it is engaged; (2) the accessibility of the ideas advanced; (3) the intellectual coherence of the piece; and (4) the extent to which it is connected to the ongoing scholarly conversation within the academy.

Reviewers are asked to bring their best selves to the process and to respond to the work as they would to that of a friend whose success they seek to foster. Structuring the review according to these four registers shapes the work in ways that might resonate with broader public and academic communities. The process cultivates a more responsive and responsible public intellectual activity. In this way, publicly engaged citizens beyond and within the academy partner in practices of scholarship and in scholarly publishing, collaborating in structured ways to ensure that publications enrich public life.

The journal’s website displays a flowchart illustrating the formative peer review process:

There are some further details about the process here.

It will be interesting to see whether formative peer review works as the journal’s editors hope, and if so, whether it (or something like it) could be a model for other journals. This is a question that Claire Skea (Leeds Trinity) takes up in a post at her blog, Philosophical MusingsShe writes:

What I am arguing for here, whether we adopt a system of open peer review, post-publication peer review, or the PPJ’s original ‘formative peer review’ process, is a lifting of the ‘veil of anonymity’ in order to encourage greater dialogue between those writing academic articles and those reviewing them. Fears over bias and review retaliation (this is the concern that negative reviews will be linked to a reduced possibility of tenure, refused grant applications etc.) could not be accounted for if peer review was no longer blind, but academic integrity should prevail over such concerns. The debate over the usefulness of what I refer to here as the ‘veil of anonymity’ rests on what we perceive the purpose of peer review to be, whether it is used as a gate-keeping mechanism, or is informed by a desire to work collaboratively with others in one’s field. Academia is by its very nature characterised by rejection and criticism, but wouldn’t peer review be more educative if it prioritised collegiality and conversation over judgement?

Discussion welcome.

There are 9 comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please enter an e-mail address