• Reviewing the review

    There is already a great deal of discussion about how to revamp pre-publication peer review in scholarly communication. However, lately I’ve been thinking about the other side of this coin: the post-publication (book) review, which (unlike blind reviewer comments) is a genre of publishable scholarly writing in its own right.

    I am the reviews editor for Digital Medievalist (http://www.digitalmedievalist.org/journal/). This is an open access online journal focused specifically on digital humanities research–and yet our reviews are almost exclusively of fixed products like books or electronic editions on disc.  I am often frustrated with this whole model (from the logistical–why, in 2011, am I shipping a year-old hardcover book from Michigan to Germany?–to the philosophical) Last year, we tried to make a shift to reviewing more open, web-based scholarly projects in addition to books, without much success. Many people nominated projects for review, but few stepped up to review.

    I imagine one factor is that publishing a fixed review, passing one-time judgment on a living, dynamic project, just doesn’t make much sense. (Another, I suspect, might be that DH folk prefer to help each other out than pen scathing indictments.)

    I’d like to chat with others about the function of the traditional book review, and in what ways it is still a useful genre (or not). I’d also like to strategize about how journals like Digital Medievalist can do a better job of engaging in the productive evaluation of published scholarship.

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