Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Refereeing Academic Articles in the Information Age


The new technology (such as ScholarOne) used for submitting papers to academic journals ...  increases the possibilities for gathering, analysing and presenting summary data on stages in the refereeing process. Such data can be used to clarify the roles played by editors and publishers as well as referees—roles less widely discussed in the previous literature. I conclude, after a review of related issues, that refereeing should be “open” in this information age—i.e. correspondence between editors, referees and authors should be open and available, and not private. Some of the issues involved in achieving this are outlined and discussed.

Practitioners' Notes
  • What is already known about this topic
The importance and the value of refereeing articles submitted to journals are widely debated and are contentious issues.
  • What this paper adds
This paper discusses these concerns in the context of electronic submission processes in general and the British Journal of Educational Technology in particular.
  • Implications for practice and/or policy
Electronic submissions allow for the collection of much more data (both public and private) on authors, editors and referees. These data should not be hidden but used to inform research and practice. In particular, open review (where the names of the authors and the referees are known to all concerned in the refereeing process) is possible and achievable.


Conclusions: a personal view

In this article I have discussed some of the current practices used by editors, authors and referees when using electronic submission and publishing systems. Some of these practices are more open than others, but I believe, in this information age of the WikiLeaks and Twitter, that little—if anything—should be hidden from different contributors to the total system. Thus, I feel that it is System 5 that we should be aiming for when it comes to refereeing. What little evidence there is (as opposed to opinion) suggests that, with open refereeing, there will be some improvement in the quality of the reports received and an increase in the number of reviewers recommending publication but that there will be a decrease in the number of reviewers willing to review. (This evidence can be found in the studies of Bingham et al, 1998; Smith, 1999; van Rooyen, Godlee, Evans, Black & Smith, 1999; Walsh, Rooney, Appleby & Wilkinson, 2000). However, no one to my knowledge has studied the effects of open peer reviewing and, because there is so little empirical evidence on these issues, it would be remiss of me to advocate strongly any or one particular approach. It would be good, nonetheless, to obtain more evidence on these issues in the future.

Note: Source and Fulltext Available To Subscribers

Hartley, J. (2012), Refereeing academic articles in the information age. British Journal of Educational Technology, 43: 520–528. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2011.01211.x

Related Blog Post Available At 

No comments: