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Seeking Peer Review

December 5, 2013

I’ve been thinking about peer review a lot lately. This is likely because evaluation of the “Studying Judith” project is one of the next big steps that I want to pursue–now that I have the archive published, as well as some preliminary results of text-mining. There is obviously a lot of discussion about peer review right now. One prominent work on this subject is Sheila Cavanagh’s article, “Living in a Digital World: Rethinking Peer Review, Collaboration, and Open Access” (JDH 1.4 (Fall 2012)). Cavanagh provides a salient discussion, ranging across many examples of digital projects, and raising many issues regarding evaluation. Especially poignant is her observation that “The web certainly can serve as an electronic vanity press, but it can also facilitate rapid and revisable dissemination of important scholarly material.”

Much of the scholarly discussion about peer review is particularly focused on creating standards for tenure and promotion evaluation. For example, Emory College recently released a memorandum “Regarding the Evaluation of Digital Scholarship,” adopted November 2013 for the purposes of tenure and promotion cases. The Carolina Digital Humanities Initiative at UNC is collecting links to other contributions on this subject here–several of which are documents about reviewing digital projects for institutional tenure and promotion cases.

My own thinking has gone in a different direction. While I do care about tenure and promotion–and I care about the ways that the system needs to undergo reform (not just because of digital culture)–it is not the primary issue I face with this project. Perhaps my alternative concerns are because I do not yet have a faculty position, nor the hope of tenure to go along with it, nor the subsequent pressure to produce scholarship that will come under evaluation.

Right now, I care about the project for its role in medieval studies and digital humanities, most specifically, what I can contribute to scholarship, teaching, and generally accessible knowledge for a subject about which I care. I am, in other words, more concerned about peer review for the sake of the project. I realize, of course, that any peer review will benefit future tenure and promotion work, or any other institutional evaluations of my scholarship. But at this point I’m most interested in gaining insights for quality control and suggestions to improve the project in future work.

So I’m sending out a formal call for peer review. I’ve put the project up on DHCommons in the hopes for feedback from others there (and to generate interest for collaborating as I move forward), but I’m also casting my net widely. I’m especially excited to gain input from those in medieval studies broadly, Anglo-Saxon studies specifically, and anyone practicing digital humanities. If you’re interested in reviewing the Omeka archive, please contact me–via the comments on this post, the contact page, email, or on Twitter.


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