Redefining peers / Redéfinir les pairs

By David Phipps (ResearchImpact, York)
A narrow construction of peer and an entrenched culture of peer review constrain creativity and create barriers to more accessible research. That’s why we need the creativity of knowledge mobilization.

Une conception étroite de ce que sont les pairs et une culture ancrée de revue par les pairs contraint la créativité et crée des barrières à l’accesibilité de la recherche. C’est pourquoi nous avons besoin de la créativité de la mobilisation des connaissances.
This is the third blog I have written discussing alternatives to peer review. I’m not down on peer review. I’m up on alternatives like those I mentioned in Blogging vs. Peer Review published on January 12 and The Art of Going Beyond Peer Review published on March 3.
Today I have returned to a manuscript that was rejected (although invited for resubmission with revisions) from a peer reviewed journal because it did not conform to a narrow construction of scholarly communication. This narrow construction constrains creativity in research communications and prevents scholarly authors from expanding the reach and impact of their research. That’s the role of knowledge mobilization, to creatively fill the communication and dissemination gap created by a history and culture of peer review.
Funding agencies are exploring novel funding programs such as: NSERC I2I; CIHR Proof of Principle; CIHR Meetings, Planning and Dissemination; SSHRC Public Outreach and SSHRC Partnership grant (especially those with a connections theme). Many of these funding programs involve non-academic stakeholders on the review committees. Scholars funded by these novel funding mechanisms are falling behind by continuing to limit the definition of peers to academic scholars. If the broader knowledge community gets to participate in peer review at the front end (grant funding) we need to find vehicles to support these peers at the back end (publishing and dissemination).

We need to redefine the concept of peers not to challenge our academic colleagues but to complement them. I publish in academic peer reviewed journals but I find it difficult to adapt my work to fit their narrow frameworks. I am not seen as a peer of the academic reviewers. But then they are not my peer either.
There are a few examples where research dissemination has engaged non-academic peers in peer review.

  • Gateways: International Journal of Community Research and Engagement is « a refereed journal concerned with the practice and processes of university-community engagement ». Although the editorial board is entirely university based, « the journal works with an expanded definition of peer reviewers, including suitably qualified community leaders, social service agency staff and foundation program officers. »
  • Community Engaged Scholarship for Health « is a free, online mechanism for peer-reviewing, publishing and disseminating products of health-related community-engaged scholarship that are in forms other than journal articles. » If you have produced a product from your community engaged scholarship, CE4Health will peer review and post it. If you have written a paper about your scholarship, please find a journal to publish it. The editorial team is dominated by but is not exclusively academic and the peer review process includes one community and two academic reviewers.
  • Manifestation: Journal of Community Engaged Research and Learning Partnerships « was an open-access, electronic, peer-reviewed journal dedicated to the conversations about how to most beneficially support and engage in community-based research, community-campus partnerships, service-learning, action research, and other inclusive methods and practices that build and empower our communities. » It was started by long time ResearchImpact friend, Peter Levesque Unfortunately, it was unable to keep going without funding.

But that’s about it… thousands (literally) of academic, peer reviewed journals. Only three that I know of that have tried to redefine the concept of peer reviewer (if you know of others please comment and let me know… the ResearchImpact tweeps didn’t return anything new to me).
If we’re going to redefine « peer » reviewers we need a new « peer » reviewed vehicle. One that will publish articles, stories, videos, poems, blogs and other forms of knowledge outputs from diverse forms of inquiry and diverse ways of knowing. But if we produce it will you contribute? We are professional knowledge brokers and allied knowledge workers. We are not faculty. We don’t have time protected for writing, reading, research and disseminating. We’re not measured on it either. If we produce it will you contribute?
I am not promising we will produce it. ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche has this blog, our KMb in Action series and our videos. We broaden the reach of peer reviewed scholarship through our ResearchSnapshot clear language research summaries. Therein lays some of the creativity of knowledge mobilization. I am promising we will think about redefining « peers » and « peer review » (sometime). What will you do?