Doubts about peer review are like doubts about democracy. Both systems are far from perfect, but in the case of peer review no alternative to the process of rational consensus seems more likely to work in the interest of furthering knowledge.

Alan Gross


The Peer Review Culture in Scholarly Publication and Grantmaking


COM690-001: Special Topic Term: Winter, '11-12
Lawrence Souder, Ph.D. Voice: 215-895-2730
Classroom: Wednesdays, 6 p - 8:50 p Office: #47, Room 323

Description: The peer review process is a cornerstone of science because it is regarded as an essential part of the self-correcting nature of science; on the pragmatic side it determines who gets published, who gets funded, and who gets promoted. Such an institution, like democracy, should be subject to reassessment and revision. However, reviews of peer review, like most things, have been mixed. At best peer review is a screen for gross incompetence and fraud, not a perfect filter. More troubling is peer review’s tendencies to be inefficient and to preserve the status quo of orthodox science. Students in this course will explore the pragmatic and ethical dimensions of the peer review process by reading the most current research on peer review practices as published in a variety of disciplinary journals. This course articulates with the content and goals of other courses in the Department of Culture and Communication, specificially COM 500, COM 704, and COM 875. Questions of interest are:

Objectives: If you successfully complete this course, you will be able to:

Text: [Selected journal articles on-line and in print; see bibliography and Hagerty Library's Electronic Reserve.]

Grading:  This course will proceed as a seminar. As such, it will require you to take an active role in presenting and discussing ideas in class. No midterm or final exams will be given. Your final grade will be computed on the basis of the following components:

Assignments: Each class meeting will require you to prepare a reading and a writing assignment. Most readings are articles from research journals. Click on their author designators in the Reading Due column of the Assignment Schedule for study guide questions to help you focus on their key terms and concepts.

Most writing assignments are opportunities to apply the perspectives and principles explicated in the readings to your own case studies. Click on the items in the Writing Due column of the Assignment Schedule for specific details. Late assignments will be penalized one letter grade increment for each class day late.

In addition to the ongoing reading and writing assignments, each of you will give a formal presentation at some point in the course. Click on the link to presentations for details.

Academic Honesty: It is assumed that the work you submit for this course, whether written or spoken, is your own. Any attempt to represent someone else's work as your own is plagiarism. Plagiarism includes copying another student's work on papers or tests, copying without attribution the ideas or words from published sources, submitting papers written in previous semesters, and referring to notes during exams. For more clarification on plagiarism, see Drexel's Student Handbook. Such academic misconduct will result in a failing grade for the assignment, a probable failing grade for the course, and a report to the Dean for possible disciplinary action.

Attendance: You are expected to attend all classes. Attendance is important to your progress and your classmates'. Much of what you learn will come from discussions and interactions with your fellow students. A formal presentation for which you are absent will be graded as an F. If an emergency prevents you from attending class (such as a personal illness or family emergency), please contact me in advance of your absence. You may miss one class without penalty; any additional absences will reduce your final grade.

Assignment Schedule

Date Topic Reading Writing
1/11 Publication and Grantmaking Atkinson, Bence, Riisgard    
1/18 Journal Authors Weber, Williams, Wilson    
1/25 Journal Reviewers Gross, Turcotte Project 1 Proposal  
2/1 Journal Editors Flowerdew, Wager    
2/8 Post-publication Peer Review Souder, Wellington Project 1  
2/15 Problems with Peer Review Charlton, Shimp, Singleton    
2/22 Improving Peer Review Melero, van Rooyen, Walsh, Stamps    
2/29 Grant Reviewers Mallard, Spier    
3/7 Institutional Review Boards Bledsoe, Weisse Project 2 Proposal  
3/14 Peer Review and Beyond Abu-Saad, Harrison, Patton    
      Project 2