By Siobhan McMenemy, Senior Editor
WLU Press, in collaboration with Hannah McGregor, scholar and podcaster at Simon Fraser University/Canadian Institute for Studies in Publishing, is working to devise a new editorial methodology for the evaluation, editorial and production revision, peer review, and design and dissemination of podcasts as a unique form of scholarly communication. Dr. McGregor’s Secret Feminist Agenda is our pilot scholarly podcast and we invite you to read the open peer reviews of the SFA's complete first season.
What follows is an experiment in a form of open peer review, defined as such by its ready availability to the reading public and by the peer reviewers’ willingness to have their identities and professional affiliations known to the podcaster and to the wider public.
This scholarly podcast project has been designed to experiment not only with the form and content of the podcast as a means to create, engage with, and disseminate scholarship, but also as an experiment with still unconventional methods of peer review. Ultimately, it is our hope to encourage a widespread acceptance of the timely place—and value—of born-digital scholarship along the spectrum of genres of professionally edited, peer-reviewed, designed, produced, and disseminated scholarship under the imprint of a university publisher.
The reviewers engaging with the peer evaluation of the first season of Secret Feminist Agenda will be answering a set of questions designed to engage the various points of concern of our scholarly podcasting project.
This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.
A. Podcast Form
- It is the contention of this pilot podcast project that the form of the podcast presents scholars with the opportunity to experiment with new modes and means of scholarly communication. Do you agree with this contention? In what ways does this particular podcast series demonstrate the potential of the medium for scholarly dissemination? Are there specific ways in which you think the series could be improved in order to take advantage of the form as a way to engage listeners in new lines of scholarly inquiry?
- The podcast currently includes a first season of 15 episodes. Please identify the episodes you listened to for the sake of this report. What, in your view, is the overarching structure of this 15-episode series? Does the podcast as a whole have a discernible scholarly intent informing its approach to its subject(s)? If so, what about the podcast defines it as scholarly? What are the strengths and weaknesses of the overall form of this first series?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of the structure of the individual episodes? Is the length of the episodes in keeping with the aims and scope of the episodes?
- Is the apparatus associated with the podcast (including links posted with each episode and related social media sites) scholarly? If not, how might it be strengthened to meet scholarly standards?
- One of the specific aims of this pilot podcast is to engage the form of the podcast as an object of research production. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the series as an expression of scholarly research engagement?
B. Podcast Content
- What, if anything, is the principle scholarly concern, or central argument, of the podcast series? What is the guiding scholarly methodology of the podcast series? Is it clear? If not, how might its methods be made more evident without sacrificing the tone of the podcast?
- To what audience(s) is the podcast directed? To what discipline(s) in particular, if any?
- Each podcast episode includes a reflective introductory piece and a feature conversation with guest(s). Each episode is accompanied by textual apparatus (e.g. episode notes; external links; references), as well as the podcaster’s associated website and social media platforms. Do you have any suggestions for the improvement of the podcast related to these various components with respect to their style, structure, format, features?
- In light of the aims of this pilot scholarly podcast series, which of the episodes you have considered (please identify them) were the strongest and which were the weakest? Why?
- Does the podcast series, as it stands, make a significant contribution to its field(s)?
- What are the competing and comparable podcasts in the field(s), and how does this one relate to them?
- What are the competing and comparable books in the field(s), and how does the podcast relate to them?
- If you were to assess the potential of a peer-reviewed podcast series to contribute new scholarship to a particular field, to which scholarly form would a podcast series be comparable: A monograph, an edited collection, a special issue of a journal article, a journal article, none of these? Why?
- Because this pilot scholarly podcast represents, equally, an experiment with the role of peer review in the production of such a podcast series, would you please comment on the following aspects of the peer review:
- In light of your response to question #4, how many podcast episodes should a peer reviewer be asked to assess? Does your answer relate more to the number of hours’ listening or to your ability to answer fully the questions asked regarding the content and form of the podcast episodes and season?
- Are the questions, as formed, suitably thorough, in your view, to provide a podcaster and the Press editor with useful and detailed feedback to ensure the scholarly quality of a podcast series? Are there questions you think should be asked of peer reviewers of podcasts that were not? If so, what are they?
- In light of your response to question #4, if a podcast series intends to be open-ended, with no scheduled end to its production, how many rounds of peer review, and with what frequency, do you feel it would be necessary to ensure the ongoing quality of the podcast?
- Does the open peer review process add value—editorial, production, other—to the podcast series? Could the same, or greater, value be provided to the podcaster and Press with a blind review?
The podcaster will respond to the reports and there may also be a (limited) subsequent engagement between reviewers and podcaster online as well. We invite you to follow the unfolding of this open peer review. If you have any questions about this pilot project, please feel free to write to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We are grateful to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) for the support of this collaborative project through its Insight Development Grant programme.