À mon avis
In my opinion
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Murray Dineen is professor
of music in the faculty of arts
at the University of Ottawa.
Evaluating scholarly work
in the Internet age
by Murray Dineen
’s time to rethink peer review and the
definition of scholarly work in light of
the Internet. The current system of
peer-reviewed scholarly work was
established in an era of typewriters,
Anonymous peer review is rarely anonymous.
By the time one’s research reaches the level of
sophistication necessary to attract scholarly interest, one’s identity is known to peers. Nor is peer
review always objective. Reviewers often hide
behind anonymity to deliver unwarranted attacks.
(And authors rarely have recourse to a vehicle by
which to respond to the reviewer.) For these reasons, anonymous peer review has been called
unjust and inhumane in some quarters.
It doesn’t have to be so. The Internet allows for
timely and humane forms of exchange in scholarship. In the hands of an editor, peer review could
become a form of colloquy, an exchange between
author and reviewers. “Open peer review” and
“open peer commentary” should become fully
accepted practices of scholarly review.
So, too, the peer-reviewed scholarly book and
article no longer remain the principal vehicles by
which research is disseminated. Their main drawback is time, the time necessary to bring ideas to
press. In their stead, scholarly work is now disseminated via the web in the form of blogs, webinars,
wikis, webcasts, Ted Talks, and even emails, Face-book comments and tweets. I call these forms of
scholarly dissemination digital ephemera: they are
ephemeral, responding to changing circumstances,
rapidly decaying, supplanted by new ephemera.
Despite their ephemeral quality, they are fast becoming legitimate vehicles for new scholarly ideas.
New forms of dissemination such as digital
ephemera, then, should be taken into account as
scholarly work. And peer review of digital ephem-
era should allow for an exchange between
reviewer and author, anonymously or otherwise.
Here is how to do this:
First, allow a scholar to assemble digital
ephemera for peer evaluation for the purposes of
tenure, promotion and scholarly funding. In lieu
of a published book or article, a scholar seeking
tenure might create a blog comprising dated cop-
ies or records of emails, webcasts or other digital-
media publications that have contributed to the
formation and dissemination of their research.
Preface the blog with a description of the research
developed through these ephemera, how, for
example, an email exchange led to the emergence
of a new scholarly idea. Let the blog and its con-
tents then become the object of peer review.
Second, open up the process of peer review by
allowing the author to respond to reviewer com-
ments (and the reviewer to respond in turn),
under the auspices of an editor or moderator.
Retain the judgment of the reviewer as ultimate,
for peer review is the cornerstone of evaluation
in academia. But make the process a true exchange