Fitzpatrick Wins Grant to Study Internet-Based Peer Review

Pomona Media Studies Professor Kathleen Fitzpatrick and her colleagues at MediaCommons and New York University Press (NYUP) received a $50,000 grant earlier this month from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The grant will enable the group to conduct a year-long study of peer-to-peer (P2P) review, a process through which a community of scholars uses the Internet to discuss academic articles and books prior to publication.

Fitzpatrick is a co-founder of MediaCommons, a network of scholars created to “promote the exploration of new forms of publishing within the [media studies] field.”

“As our scholarly publishing systems move increasingly online, networks like MediaCommons are looking for ways of using the Internet's open systems for peer review,” Fitzpatrick said. “Hence ‘peer-to-peer review,’ in which the members of a network openly discuss and evaluate—and not incidentally help to improve—the work that's published there.”

MediaCommons and NYUP posted Fitzpatrick's book, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, for P2P review in 2009. The book will be published later this year.

Fitzpatrick said she valued the diverse input she received on her book which, due to P2P, was read by over 40 people.

“Even more, they really discussed the text with each other, allowing me to see important points of disagreement,” she said. “And they brought very different kinds of expertise to the particular issues my book is studying, which doesn't often happen in traditional review processes.”

Fitzpatrick is currently on sabbatical and will spend next year away from Pomona as well. She said she and several of her colleagues will use the grant to “assess current open review practices, to develop a set of criteria and protocols for effective open review, to think about the technical requirements for a system that would support such review, and to test some possible systems to see how they work.”

Next spring, they will present their results and suggestions in a white paper–an authoritative report–which, needless to say, will be posted for P2P review.

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