Professor uses blog to get peer review of academic book

Some say effort is first time blog used for a peer review of academic publication

A professor working on a book about digital fiction and video games has launched what some are calling the first blog-based peer-review process for an academic book.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin, an assistant professor of communication at the University of California San Diego, on Tuesday announced plans to post portions of his forthcoming book, Expressive Processing, on the Grand Text Auto blog for the next 10 weeks to seek peer review. The book to be published by MIT Press.

"Given that ours is a field in which major expertise is located outside the academy (like many other fields, from 1950s cinema to Civil War history), the Grand Text Auto community has been invaluable for my work," Wardrip-Fruin wrote in a blog post. "In fact, while writing the manuscript for Expressive Processing, I found myself regularly citing blog posts and comments, both from Grand Text Auto and elsewhere. Now I'm excited to take the blog/manuscript relationship to the next level, through an open peer review of the manuscript on the blog."

Wardrip-Fruin, a regular author at Grand Text Auto, asked his blog's readers to "please let me know if I get anything wrong. The project is very interdisciplinary, and I know some of you are experts in areas where I'm still learning. More generally, please let me know what you think of the arguments."

Wardrip-Fruin said he worked with The Institute for the Future of the Book to develop a version of its CommentPress software. CommentPress allows comments to be added to paragraphs in the margins of the text.

Chris Joseph, digital writer in residence at the Institute for Creative Technologies at De Montfort University in the U.K., noted that although a traditional peer-review process will happen alongside the blog-based process, "we believe this experiment affirms the importance and legitimacy of online communities in the development scholarship, and [it] represents a significant step forward by an academic press into possible new hybrid models of publishing and review. With this experiment, we inch a little closer to an exciting fusion of old and new forms."

However, Josh Catone, a blogger at Read Write Web said that Wardrip-Fruin's editor Doug Sery said that he didn't know if the peer review on the blog would help the manuscript.

"While Sery is probably right that a serious peer review can't be conducted openly on a blog, and for the integrity of the publisher, editor and author to remain intact, a traditional peer review must be done, blog review does have a place," Catone wrote.

"Comments from blog readers could certainly be helpful in crafting the final product, even if they are too informal to be considered a real peer review."

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Heather Havenstein

Computerworld
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