Whither Peer Review? A Word of Thanks

istock_1861843_large-blog-eraserLuke Adams celebrates the crucial role of peer review in the academic publishing process.

The concept of peer review – that of a person’s scholarship being assessed, commented on, refined, by their peers – is fundamental to the academy. It plays a part in driving up standards, setting benchmarks, operates as an important two-way learning process, and allows reviewers to feel they are ‘giving something back’.

For a scholarly publisher, peer review should also be fundamental. The process isn’t perfect by any means, of course. There is a good deal of subjectivity involved, the information is often imperfect, the Publisher is required to filter the results judiciously, and for an author on the receiving end, it can at times be frustrating. But it is a crucial part of the fabric of academic publishing. In a world where information and opinion proliferates, with ever increasing means for scholars to self-publish and self-promote, peer review is ever more critical. It is what sorts the bad from the good, the good from the great, the original idea from the not-so original, the un-publishable from the raw but shining potential.

Quality content and high academic standards are at the heart of Edward Elgar Publishing, and peer review is therefore at the heart of everything we do. Our aim is to publish books that push forward research, that inspire new thinking, that help to define a field. Of course we don’t always achieve that, but to do so we rely on a large network of wonderful reviewers. We rely on their goodwill to advise us on the projects we consider. We rely on them to tell us when something needs a lot more work, we rely on them to be honest and frank and to help us piece together a picture of the prospects for a book, and in some cases to help us improve those prospects. Without our reviewers, the decisions we make would rest on our own judgement. Our commissioning editors are good (!) but we are not academics. We can judge the size of the market for a good book, we can judge the writing style, we can tell if a book sets out an interesting proposition, but we can’t judge academic quality and originality of thought without you.

But let’s be honest about this, there is no compunction on the reviewer to carry out this work. Academics generally have a to-do list as long as their arm and could I’m sure use that time elsewhere. It doesn’t further their own ambition. And the task is very poorly remunerated (if at all!). All in all it can seem a thankless task.

So thank you!

So that’s why we would like to make a point of thanking all those reviewers who say yes to us, who engage with us, who willingly offer their expertise for little or nothing in return, and who ultimately contribute to building a programme of valuable and original books and content that (hopefully) are relied upon by scholars the world over. Thank you. We could not do it without you.


luke

Luke Adams is Head of Law Publishing at Edward Elgar.

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