U.S. Intellectual History Blog

A Peer-Reviewed Blog

A few weeks ago, as part of a post on blogging as scholarship, I speculated about the possibility of applying peer review to blogging.  It turns out that some blogs are already experimenting with this.

In comments over on the S-USIH Facebook page, Miguel Juárez, a doctoral candidate in U.S. History, Borderlands History, Urban History and Digital Humanities at the University of Texas at El Paso, pointed me in the direction of Mujeres Talk as an example of a blog that practices peer review.

Mujeres Talk is housed at the Ohio State Universities Libraries webpage and is focused on “Chicana, Latina and Native American women’s work.”  It asks potential contributors to submit blog essays of 500-1500 words, which it reviews in two to three weeks.  More information can be found on Mujeres Talk’s How to Submit page, as well as its About Us page.

Mujeres Talk suggests that peer-reviewing blog posts is at least practical.  And it gives us a chance to consider more concretely the costs and benefits of this practice.  Obviously, peer reviewing, even with a two-week turnaround time, dramatically increases the time it takes for a blog post to appear after it is written. Among other things, blogging has often been about responding immediately to events and discussions; peer review would almost certainly make such instant responses less possible.

The potential practical benefits are at least two-fold. First, peer review might improve the quality of blog posts.  Second, peer-reviewed blog posts are more likely to be considered scholarship by our academic institutions.

Take a look at Mujeres Talk and see what you think.

5 Thoughts on this Post

  1. Ben: Based your tone I think you’re on board with what I’m about to say, but there’s nothing to prevent a *single* blog from housing both peer-reviewed *and* non-peer-reviewed posts. We could develop a special, official tag for the top of peer-reviewed posts, and float a note on the meaning of those tags near the right-hand of our blog, near the top.

    I agree with you that peer-reviewed posts would not be among those that have the privilege of giving an immediate response, or commentary on, recent events. We rarely do that here anyway. – TL

  2. It’s an interesting idea, and I’d love to see USIH experiment with it. I agree with Tim that only posts that could benefit from it would need to be peer-reviewed, and they could be clearly marked as such. I think a page explaining exactly what peer review meant would help too.

  3. I’m not sure that Mujeres Talk claims to be peer reviewed, at least in the sense of double-blind peer review. Their description doesn’t use the term “peer review,” and the process is that two members of the editorial board review submissions, so the reviewers and the authors are known to one another. That’s not to say that they don’t have an interesting model, but I doubt that an edited blog would be accepted by the profession at large as peer reviewed, with all the freight that term carries.

    • Yes, it seems to me that USIH already practices something close to the model of Mujeres Talk, but in a more informal way, with its guest posts. That is, the regular bloggers are free to post as they will, but those who are invited or wish to post by contacting one of the regular bloggers have a gateway to pass, so that not just anything goes up on the blog. In both cases (Mujeres Talk and USIH), I would see this as a blog exercising an editorial function, but not necessarily what I would call peer review, at least in the way that term has been understood in scholarly communities. There are scholarly and quasi-scholarly journals today that exercise a strong editorial presence, but are not peer-reviewed ( I think of journals like Daedalus, Raritan, Salmagundi, etc.–someone correct me if any of these is actually peer reviewed). Publishing in such journals might even be more difficult in many cases than getting work accepted in a classically double-blind peer reviewed journal in a specialized field. Maybe one way to think about this is as a series of gradations, in which open wiki-style anything-goes represents one pole, and double-blind peer review with multiple reviewers (AHR, for instance, produces five or more reviews for an accepted article) represents the other. It’s impractical for a blog to attempt the latter, but it can certainly do something in the middle between these poles.

      • That’s a helpful series of distinctions, Dan.

        I agree that MT isn’t double-blind peer-reviewed. And that the AHR’s level of peer review is probably not practical (for most journals, let alone blogs). But I think somewhere in that middle range blogs might actually experiment with double-blind peer reviewing, though probably with only one or two reviewers.

        I would add that MT is at least a step closer to peer review than USIH. Items submitted to MT get reviewed by two editors not of the submitter’s choice. Those wanting to guest post on USIH can choose which one of the regular bloggers they wish to work through. And any of us have the discretion to publish anything we want (so long as it doesn’t violate our non-profit status).

        I entirely agree that considering these questions in terms of gradations is absolutely the right way to go.

        This whole line of thought on my part flowed from the question “Is Blogging Scholarship?” that the OAH posed to the roundtable in which I recently took part. However one defines scholarship, seeing it as a continuum rather than simply a state (with something as either scholarship or not-scholarship) seems very sensible to me.

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