Peer review

A few months ago I mentioned that Kai von Fintel and David Beaver have established a new, peer-reviewed, open access journal (Semantics & Pragmatics), with the hopeful thought that “we [= phono-types] should do this, too”. John McCarthy expressed concern about the amount of work that would be involved in such a venture, and Alan Prince followed up with a question and comment about the value of peer review these days. Ed Keer added that something like phonoloblog “could be expanded to create some collaborative workspace for phonologists” — an idea I like a lot, and something I very much welcome discussion about. Submit your posts/comments!

I gave a quick response to John’s comment, and Kai promised to respond to John’s and Alan’s “skeptical remarks” over on the S&P editors’ blog. In this post Kai quotes Alan’s question and comment and explains why he and David decided to go the peer review route with S&P. Kai addresses the role of peer review in today’s publishing climate, but I don’t think he addresses Alan’s question about the value of peer review. Well, let me rephrase: Kai addresses some of the practical value of peer review (exposure, promotion/tenure, etc.), but Alan’s question seemed to me to be more about whether peer review actually works to improve the product. Alan’s comment — that some of the practical value of peer review might be replaced by more effective means of citation indexing — remains unaddressed. Any thoughts from phonoloblog readers?

A final note: Kai’s post begins by citing an interesting paper about recent, relevant changes in publishing in economics, and I agree with Kai that the observations made in the paper apply (in some modified form) to linguistics as well. One of these observations is that “the necessity of going through the peer-review process has lessened for high status authors: in the old days peer-reviewed journals were by far the most effective means of reaching readers, whereas with the growth of the Internet high-status authors can now post papers online and exploit their reputation to attract readers”. I think that some such effect of status is unavoidable regardless of the peer review question, and I’m interested in how high-status authors can facilitate the recognition of work by lower-status authors (apart from citing it, of course). No doubt Alan is a high-status author, and I think he has done his part to facilitate the recognition of a great deal of work by establishing the first electronic repository in linguistics: the Rutgers Optimality Archive, which “is open to all who wish to disseminate their work in, on, or about OT” — and the success of ROA has motivated others to establish similar linguistics repositories (such as the two that Kai cites in his post, and lingBuzz; see the sidebar for others). Other high-status authors could contribute to the recognition of other work by submitting their own work to these repositories rather than simply posting it on their personal webpages. (If the repositories were just providing webspace, they’d be long dead.)

3 thoughts on “Peer review

  1. Ed


    Have you looked at PLoS? They have a new service

    SciVee allows scientists to communicate their work as a multimedia presentation incorporated with the content of their published article. Other scientists can freely view uploaded presentations and engage in virtual discussions with the author and other viewers. SciVee also facilitates the creation of communities around specific articles and keywords. Use this medium to meet peers and future collaborators that share your particular research interests.

  2. John McCarthy

    Eric’s remarks about ROA remind me of a phenomenon that has long puzzled me. Some researchers, of status high or low, don’t post their work on ROA, or have done so only very sporadically. In many cases, the work isn’t available on the researcher’s personal webpage either. Since putting the work on ROA, or at least where Google can find it, greatly increases the likelihood that it will be read and cited, one would think that it is in the researcher’s best interest to make the work as easy to find and read as possible. Are people sitting on their stuff because they intend to publish it? Book publishers definitely have a problem with book manuscripts on the web, but I don’t know of any journals that have a problem with making the draft of an article available on the web, at least until it is published. I suppose that putting the manuscript on the web might make double-blind reviewing harder to achieve, but true double-blind reviewing is nearly unachievable in a field as small as ours anyway.

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