Under my editorship, the American Historical Review has tried many new things. But so far, the traditional form of “double-blind” peer review for article submissions has remained intact, indeed sacrosanct.
In the ongoing commitment to experimentation, the AHR invites “open peer review” of a recently submitted manuscript, “History Can be Open Source: Democratic Dreams and the Rise of Digital History,” by Joseph L. Locke (University of Houston—Victoria) and Ben Wright (University of Texas at Dallas). Given that Locke and Wright argue for the coexistence of transparency alongside formal academic peer review, subjecting their submission to an open review makes sense. The peer review process itself will serve as an excellent test of the propositions about the democratization of scholarship they put forth in their submission. If accepted, their article will appear in a new section of the AHR, “Writing History in a Digital Age,” overseen by Consulting Editor Lara Putnam.
Some scholars with a strong commitment to open access publication, open source research, and digital democracy see open peer review as the next frontier. They argue that all scholarship will benefit from a more open process. This experiment is an attempt to consider a step in that direction, while nevertheless preserving the function of editors, boards, and carefully selected anonymous reviewers. As an editor, I especially value the role of those structures, and value the developmental as well as evaluative role that they play. But I am happy in this case to explore how a system of open peer review might operate alongside them.
In consultation with the Board and with Lara Putnam, I will invite several handpicked scholars to submit reader reports by March 27, 2020. While they will have the option to submit their reader reports anonymously, the reports themselves will be “open,” available for anyone to read. The rest of the process will remain transparent. Anyone may access this platform—http://www.ahropenreview.com/HistoryCanBeOpenSource/—and comment on parts of the submission and readers reports as they become available and/or prepare a full reader report themselves. After a period of twelve weeks, four weeks after the deadline for formal reader reports, I will prepare my editorial recommendations based on the collected reports. That too will be “open,” posted for anyone interested to read, as will Locke and Wright’s response and revisions.
So, peer reviewers, have at it. Let’s see where this takes us.
- Alex Lichtenstein
Editor, American Historical Review