From conference to newsletter to journal: a challenge to the emphasis on peer review

The reason for posting the following excerpt from one of the resource requirements interviews is intended to raise the question: is the current focus on the technical aspects of peer review out of touch with the communication / community aspects of scholarly communication of which formal publishing is arguably just one part?

This journal is one among the many thousands of small, scholar-led fully open access journals that would clearly meet all of the requirements for inclusion in DOAJ, including the peer review process. However, the peer-reviewed journal is just one portion of the rich history of the communication of this scholarly community, which flows from the conference(s) and early newsletter. Does it really make sense to separate the peer-reviewed bits from the larger history of communication among this scholarly community? I argue that it does not, that to fully understand the peer-reviewed literature it is important to know the historical context.

What about today’s emerging scholarly communities? I think I am seeing a narrow emphasis on the technical aspects of peer review, understandable in the context of open access debates but probably not optimal for scholarly communication and communities. This would be a good topic for further research, one that might appeal to historical researchers. There is probably a good deal of material within scholarly journals (there are often editorials about recent developments) and on the websites of scholarly societies. Current scholarly societies could be interesting to explore for researchers in anthropology or other social sciences.

In the words of the anonymized interviewee:

“we had a conference on this in [years several decades ago], at [our university], on the topic of we called it [our topic] and it was sort of a new field in [our discipline] and by the way we’re all [members of our discipline] it’s a multidisciplinary field now and I guess it always has been, but anyway we had this conference and people discovered that they’re breaking away from previously standard arguments / approaches [in our discipline] independently and in much the same direction and so it’s quite exciting to find that among the [less than 100] people that came to this conference that there was this commonality, and somebody said that we should keep in touch, and so we offered to set up this newsletter, and so we had a newsletter from [period of 5 years] but people began to send us manuscripts and people who didn’t need to publish in a refereed journal to get tenure sent us manuscripts and we began to get more and more articles and by [the end of the 5-year period] we said clearly there is a demand for the journal so we turned ourselves into a journal by getting ourselves an editorial board and establishing some procedures”.

This was a rich interview and content will be included in other posts. The purpose of this narrow excerpt is to focus on this challenge to the narrow focus on peer review.

This post is part of the resource requirements for small scholar-led open access publishing project.

Morrison, H. (2015). From conference to newsletter to journal: A challenge to the emphasis on peer review. Sustaining the Knowledge Commons / Soutenir Les Savoirs Communs. Retrieved from

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