RhetNetFebruary 1995

Redefining peer review

Nick Carbone

When a writer submits a piece to most peer reviewed print journals, the editor chooses three readers or so and sends them the manuscript without the writer's named attached for a reading. The readers respond roughly along the lines of accept, accept but only with some revision, or reject. The editor then contacts the writer with a decision. Often the accept with revision has some specific changes in mind.

The idea of peer review is something Rhetnet can redefine. If a writer wants to submit an essay, they could do so to cowrite with the understanding that they won't be read blindly, that they'll receive as much feedback as there are interested people, and that how they use that feed back is up to them. But if we establish a habit and tradition of making the feed back supportive rather than judgmental, if we offer criticism that's thoughtful and kind and seeks to help the writer more than judge the worth of their piece, then we'd be offering a new kind of peer reviewed article.

That's one way to have everyone co-edit. The writer could borrow co-editors comments with attribution, or invite a co-editor with whom she finds particular rapport to become a co-writer. And the writer could choose whether a link should be made to the collection of peer review comments directly. That is editors comments may or may not be part of the final essay--give that decision to the writer.

This could be one way to handle one type of essay submission.

If someone submits a snapshot, they could announce that they have one. Snapshots could stand on their own. If they're interesting and thought provoking then they'll generate discussion. Rules for snapshots could be simply that they not exceed a certain length. How to measure that in some fair way (word counts maybe) given the variety of e-mail systems and configurations folk have could be a trick, but not one beyond the scope of you magicians. Snapshots could be pieces that go to the list and are allowed a specific run, say two or three weeks, after which comments generated from them would be archived in the web and gopher. We could set a snapshot a month goal of some sort. Send out a call or invitations to particular folk if we think they're onto something. (Imagine asking Russ Hunt, for example, to post something on what a text book will come to be as classrooms become more electric. [For those who don't read WAC-L, Russ said textbooks should be banned.)

We could also invite pieces that are intended specifically to be interactive and hypertextual. Pieces where the writer expects as many as who wish to add to the text by creating their own nodes and links. A writer who started by submitting an essay and going through peer review could decide to switch to this option for example.

We could, and should, encourage submission of already hypertexted essays, essays which take advantage of the WWW's nodes mode. Most of the essays I've run into on-line are linear for the most part. Now that the tool has emerged, we should find ways to encourage hypertext submissions, again that can be interactive or a set piece after peer review. For writers who are interested but unsure, we could post directions to good html editors for MAC/IBM platforms.

These would be in addition to what can be captured and kept with permission that we find serendipitously in our lives on other lists. And in addition to seminar and moo arrangements that we make.

I'm not suggesting anything new, but I do think something along these lines would make what we have been discussing doable.

Date:         Wed, 1 Feb 1995 20:39:56 -0500
Sender: CyberJournal for Rhetoric and Writing 
From: Nick Carbone 
Subject:      Organizing Editing

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