Peer to Peer Review

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"The notion of “peer-to-peer review” that I have been circulating in talks and articles for the last couple of years draws upon the convergence of the kinds of discussion many scholars would like peer review to produce and the decentralized peer-to-peer networks that have sprung up across the Internet. In fact, just as Biagioli suggested a shift, across the early modern development of the scientific academy, in the definition of the term “peer” — from a member of the royal court to a scholarly colleague — so Chris Anderson has argued that the term is once again being redefined in online communities: “In the Internet age, ‘peer’ is coming to mean everyman more than professional of equal rank. Consider the rise of peer-to-peer networks and the user-created content of ‘peer production,’ such as the millions of blogs that now complement mainstream media” (Anderson). Anderson uses this transformation in the notion of a peer to suggest that the academy might fruitfully find ways to open its review processes to “the wisdom of the crowds,” allowing new models of authority in online information distribution to augment more traditional review systems. For instance, Anderson’s reading of Wikipedia contradicts many of the conventional academic assumptions about the project, calling it “not so much anti-elitist as… ‘anti-credentialist’,” a distinction that indicates that site editors’ “contributions are considered on their merit, regardless of who they are or how they became knowledgeable. If what they write stands up to inspection, it remains; otherwise it goes” (Anderson)


Such a system, whatever its particulars, must operate in accordance with three key principles. The first is that it must be as non-manipulable as possible, preventing the importation of in-group favoritism, logrolling, and other interpersonal abuses from traditional peer review into the new system. Second, the system must achieve a critical mass of participation, and thus will need to operate within an ethos of “quid pro quo”; in contrast with Slashdot’s system, in which users earn the right to become reviewers by publishing within the system, scholars must earn the right to publish within these new electronic publishing networks by actively serving as reviewers. And finally, and most significantly: the key activity of such a peer-to-peer review system must be not the review of texts, but the review of the reviewers. It is the reviewers, after all, that a reader within such a network needs to trust" (