Ah, peer review, a once inscrutable practice has come under fire for not living up to its promise. As academicians we need to realize that our work needs to be accepted by our peers. Without it we are reporters without validation. Don’t get me wrong, the world needs reporters and the public likes reporters, but that isn’t good enough in our world. Our peers must have the opportunity to critique and validate our work. As a scientist this is important to me. Faulty logic, improper data analysis, poor experimental design, and poor communication are all items that should be scrutinized. Yet, the process is fraught with problems.
Problem: The implementation of a peer-review system for digital scholarship could be unwieldy and frankly overwhelming.
Solution: Peer review on any level is a challenge. It is difficult enough to find competent and willing reviewers for traditional work, so how would this work with digital content? One benefit of digital content is that it can be created and disseminated quickly, depending on the platform and the content. A blog post can be researched, written, made public, received feedback, and accumulate reach, engagement and (possibly) impact data all in the same day. Traditional peer-review often takes an excruciatingly long time – from weeks to months to years. For Extension, this period of time ranges from slow to impractical. So, what to do about it? I would propose for some digital scholarship that the audience serve as proxy reviewers. Documented interaction (comments, questions, likes, shares) can be used to validate the work. Sure, this is also a flawed system (e.g. I don’t receive too many comments on my blog), but what other meaningful method is currently available? Journals have tried this without much success, but perhaps more public-friendly Extension material will find a better audience. This type of system may encourage Extension personnel to read each other’s digital material and provide feedback as well, enhancing the credibility.
For the next post, we will look at research and Extension as being compatible in terms of P&T.