Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Blog Peer Review -- Interesting Twist

Last week I put up a brief post on The Valve, outlining a possible system for introducing peer-review to blogs. It generated a few comments, and not very much excitement.

Interestingly, while my colleagues in the humanities seem to be lukewarm to the idea, the post has been taken up by a couple of science-oriented blogs. One is Peer to Peer, a blog hosted by, which focuses on the debate over what is called "open peer review" in the sciences. Another is a blog called "Cognitive Daily", where there are some excellent comments. One of the big questions that everyone is considering is how to make "open peer review" work.

A really tantalizing project that came out of a limited blog peer-review project in the science blogging community is the Scienceblogging Anthology, which has been packaged and prepared for sale as a book on, a site that prepares and prints books-on-demand. This is a more limited approach to blog peer review, but by having a fixed goal (a collection!) they get around the problem of motivations for reviewers. They also circumvent conventional publishing tracks, which seems sensible given that the entire contents of the book are also freely available online.

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Dave Munger said...

I'm a bit of an imposter, actually. I'm a science blogger but I come from a literary background -- I have an MA in English and I'm pretty familiar with the litblogging scene (and my personal blog is more focused on literature).

But you're right in that literary studies folks who *matter* -- who blog or make decisions on such things -- don't seem very interested in the idea of peer review.

Ironically, I think because there are a lot fewer journals in literary studies, those folks do a lot less reviewing compared to scientists -- you'd think they might be okay with doing a bit more.

12:44 PM  
Jonathan said...

Dave, there are more journals in literary studies than you might think. Browse the MLA Directory of Periodicals sometime.

11:29 AM  
ZooTrouble said...

If it's peer reviewed, is it a blog?


10:00 PM  
Madhu said...

Interesting idea - and I say this as a scientist and a long-time blog reader (including yours) just getting started in science blogging! I'll go read your other post and the discussions elsewhere you point to. But let me share my immediate thoughts about the disciplinary differences in reaction to your suggestion: is this reflective of a cultural difference between humanities and sciences?

Peer review is absolutely essential and much stricter in science, but I don't know if it is so to the same extent in the humanities. Peer review is what ultimately determines the success and acceptance of any new idea in science. Its what keeps us honest (collectively at least) in the long run. I am, honestly, not sure that that is always the case in humanities, where there may be a greater element of subjectivity in assessing someone's work. Ultimately, in science, either an experimental test of a given hypothesis/theory works (matches up to some good degree with reality) or it doesn't, and the peer review ensures that the authors of the research are not being "dishonest" (deliberately or due to unconscious biases) in interpreting the data/results. This is surely very different (from my perhaps naive perspective at least) from literary criticism and review in the humanities, no? After all, humanities can tolerate relativism (in the post-modern sense) while science cannot, right? Need I bring up Alan Sokal's experiment publishing in the humanities?

So what does this have to do with peer-reviewing blogs? Not much, directly, but I wonder if it explains why scientists are willing to discuss the idea much more than people from other disciplines.

I'm wth ZooTrouble in wondering if blogs can really be peer-reviewed (from the science frame). It seems to me that at least one impulse behind science blogging is that getting ideas vetted by peer-review before being published takes a long time, and that process doesn't leave much room for speculation or tossing around new/crazy hypotheses - but blogs can provide exactly such an outlet.

I'll have to ponder this question some more...

2:21 AM  

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