Peer Review Feedback Has Changed
According to speaker, journalist, writer, and technology early adopter expert, Steve Tuffill, peer review is not as new as many may think. After listening to Mr. Tuffill on peer reviewed world at the 6th annual CO15 on February 8 on WizIQ, I decided to interview Steve in order to learn more about the history of peer review and how it has changed since its inception.
Our Peer-Reviewed World
Steve Tuffill discussed Our Peer-Reviewed World: where Evaluation by Peers Becomes the World of Social Media Overnight. He illustrated how the educative world has changed, in terms of the self-regulation of academic authority now depends more on the opinions of a vast majority of a global community who are focused on specific segments of the world of knowledge.
Academic work has now opened itself up to a world that barely existed before social media entered the sphere. Moreover, social media sites like FaceBook and LinkedIn have altered the face of boundary judgement and scientific best practice that are the mainstream of social reality.
While prior to the modern age of the Internet, stretching across the globe with millions more people connecting with millions more, it is hardly unbelievable that Wikipedia has become the most peer-reviewed living document since the peer-review process began at the Royal Society back in England in 1665.
How has peer-review feedback changed?
Peer review feedback has changed considerably over the years, if you consider a period of 300 years since its inception in 1665, followed by a period where nothing much happened and a lot of documents intended for publication received no peer-review. After that (around 1989) the process was reinvented and a Peer-Review Congress began to modernize it in terms of best practice, and methodologies.
Process of Peer Review
Describe the basic process and methodology of peer-review.
Let us examine what a peer review is in terms of education: a document that is intended for publication is sent out to certain specific people who have equal or higher qualifications than the author of the document. They read the document, make comments and ask for clarification or rewrites. After every one of the reviewers has passed the latest version, it is sent back to the editor for publication. This may take a long or a short time depending on the number of revisions. Now we can consider peer review to be essential for evaluating and validating even the pure purpose of the publication of the work. Nonetheless, peer review is not above reproach, because certain specific situations can abnegate its validity. Although many people would disagree, particularly with regard to subjects that are based upon the humanities and arts.
Peer Review Feedback in Online Breakout Rooms
Authenticity and Truthfulness
How can we guarantee authenticity and truthfulness in peer-review?
Anonymous review is almost a prerequisite for it to be authentic and at least honest in its intentions. Certainly in the area of work where there may be no correct answer or where the work is developed by presenting any number of consecutive ideas. And these ideas may be abstract enough but cannot be seen to be partisan because they stand on their own merits. Should the reviewers object to to the conclusions or methods, the paper must be rewritten before it will be passed. If these objections are substantial, the paper is rejected.
Pressure to Publish
The Internet today brings to bear great pressure on anyone who wants to publish. It’s much easier to publish today than it was in the past so why is there pressure to publish? What is driving people to publish?
What has shaped this?
This leads me to the changing face of public criticism with its almost continual judgment of other people and their work through the institution of the Internet and social media. People become enmeshed in social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google plus. Indeed some people are asking “is everyone a critic?” Some people use the social media networks, such as Facebook, Google plus, or LinkedIn to promote themselves as a business entity. So there are clearly these types of social media users who will have their work peer-reviewed in the modern sense of the phrase, meaning that the whole world will judge these people in a way in which they have never been judged before.
This has the effect of adding to the global peer review, because more people have a voice and more people are therefore able to make constructive criticism of an ever-increasing volume of output, whether it be creative content, scientific content or just better ways of doing things.
Safety in Numbers
What is the state of play on the Internet?
The online world reinvents itself at least every two years, and the creaky old publishing business has a hard time keeping up. To some people, this can appear as “safety in numbers”. To others, this may seem like noise by comparison. Academic content is quite focused in its appeal. Consequently, a thread on a social network such as Facebook, Google plus or another social network dedicated entirely to educational matters, is fairly unlikely to lose its point. Some Facebook groups are devoted entirely to academic topics. Others may tangentially cover academic subjects with a more direct focus on the subject. Either way, Facebook is not ideal for discussion because a thread can easily be led off-topic by anyone who is permitted to post freely, and if the posts must all be moderated, then the discussion is killed anyway by restriction.
Internet as Peer Review
How does the Internet work in the Context of Peer Review?
Coming back to the Internet as a source of peer review, we find that there are a number of scholarly sources that may be viewed, most of them costing money to access, paid for by the educational institution, college or university to which the person who accesses them would belong, or paid by an individual who does the research work and charges a fee for compiling the information. Educational institutions, universities and colleges are protesting the high cost of educational supporting services like pay walls for peer-reviewed subject matter and high-priced textbooks that update themselves each college term!
Peer-Review is Global
What is the current trend in peer-review?
Specialized search engines exist for medicine, science, news and law amongst others. Even though we may use Google or Yahoo or Bing to search for information on the open Internet, Wikipedia provides us with information that by comparison, has been peer-reviewed. This is simply because Wikipedia’s internal mechanisms for quality control disallow low-quality content by dint of continual review and discussion by editors, who have to gain a level of authority through their contribution over time. I suggest that Wikipedia is an obvious choice for peer-reviewed documentation in a modern on-line academic setting.
Changes in Public Opinion
Interestingly enough, people in academic institutions, college professors and grade teachers are now considering Wikipedia very seriously for what it can produce for students and faculty alike in terms of peer-reviewed information. We have come a very long way from 1665 and 1731, which are the regarded first beginnings of peer-reviewed as a scientific process, to today’s society where millions and millions of people are now online, and information is more available than ever before.
Global Take-Up of Internet-Based Education
Wikipedia, by dint of its eligibility in the world of the Internet, zero-cost to the student and the educators, lack of cumbersome procedures, and swift execution, is eminently appropriate for students who are clamoring for education, and also is the prime candidate to replace the lengthy process of peer-review with a practice that is beyond reproach, does not cost anything to the student or educators, and as wide ranging as education itself.
About Steve Tuffill
Steve Tuffill is a freelance copy, technical writer and student screenwriter, based in Valencia, California. Steve has been writing professionally since 1998. More recently, he has published over 160 articles on the Web on general subjects and was an active member of the Toolbox.com IT Wiki, taking part in the editing, revising and final publication of over 600 articles over the space of three years.
He has produced technical copy for the publishing house, Ziff-Davis, created Web copy for companies in Los Angeles and is currently engaged in writing copy for a photographer’s memoirs. Having performed many functions in his working life, Steve is always engaged with technology in every position he has held, but mainly persuading those around him of the power of collaborative writing.
Steve sees himself not as a formally trained teacher or in an industry instructor role, but an ad-hoc trainer, jumping into many situations, mainly computer-based, where people need help with technology. He has worked with sales personnel, bankers and other office staff and has written SOPs. During 2009, he took on the role of project manager and trainer in a California dairy where a new route-accounting software and hardware solution was being launched.
He complements his didactic role in industry with judicious editing and grammar-correction, ensuring that no bad grammar or spelling errors occur in any copy he has had a hand in. His curation Web site, New Words, is a compendium of information on how to write not only technical and creative copy, but also “how-tos” on English language spelling and grammar.