Open Peer Review for the Humanities

From the Editors

Permalink for this paragraph 0 The creators of the History Working Papers Project are Jason M. Kelly and Tim Hitchcock.  HWPP has one goal.  To develop an open source platform that allows for continuous revision, review, and evaluation from the earliest draft of an academic conference presentation and article, through publication and beyond.  It is designed to bring the process of exposing one’s work at a conference, and revising it for peer review publication, in to the digital age.  To achieve this, the project has created a new open access, open peer review journal plugin for the Drupal CMS (note: the site you are looking at is not the Drupal version, but the version of CommentPress for WordPress used in the recent Shakespeare Quarterly open peer review volume.  We will release the Drupal version in 2012).  We have teamed up with Richard L. Edwards, Kristi Palmer, and Andrew Smith at the Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis University to design it.  Building on code developed by Patrick Murray-John, the system focuses on the needs of scholars in the humanities and the process of generating and validating work, from the initial idea to the fully formed academic article.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 As a first step towards this larger goal, the project is also providing an online working papers series that focuses on transforming the pre-submission phase of academic writing.  HWPP will be a  space where scholars can post drafts of their work and engage in dialogue with others able to offer constructive criticism.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 We work from the premise that early ideas, comments, and reviews themselves are valuable contributions to scholarship and should be treated as such.  Therefore, as we develop the open peer review journal CMS, writers and editors will be able to post work for open and/or anonymous peer review.  Each draft will be labelled and receive a separate, stable URL that can be cited in academic publications.  Likewise, each contribution or comment by peers and reviewers will also receive a stable URL that can be cited in academic publications.  Treated as working papers, the texts — even the final versions — are living documents on which peers, reviewers, and the author can discuss and comment.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 While other peer review projects focus on the process of publishing, the HWPP Series is especially interested in changing the nature of the pre-submission phase of writing.  Ultimately, we believe it has the potential to transform the role of conferences in the process of scholarship (recreating online their role as a site of pre-publication debate).  By posting drafts on HWPP Series, authors are able to develop their work with more people, earlier in the process of writing.  And, since HWPP is an online journal, authors and contributors do not have to worry about their work being “scooped.”  Just like a publication, each draft, paragraph, comment, and note can be cited according to its stable URL.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 Ultimately, HWPP has the potential to transform the role of conferences in the process of scholarship as well.  Panel chairs, commentators, and presenters will find the HWPP Series especially useful.  Posting their work online as a working paper and having pre-conference and post-conference  discussions on HWPP will allow them to abandon the standard series of 20-minute presentations and allow them to adopt new formats for their panels: workshops, Pecha Kucha, unconference, etc.  During the first phases of the HWPP, we are working with the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS), the world’s largest association in the field of British Studies.  NACBS has agreed to trial HWPP in its conferences for 2011 and 2012.

Permalink for this paragraph 0 In sum, the HWPP is working to ensure that the best traditions of academic debate and peer review are recreated online, in a form fit for the digital age.