Best Practices for Peer Review
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Letter from the Executive Director
2015-16 AAUP Acquisitions Editorial Committtee
Preamble: Why Peer Review Is Important
Section 1: The AE’s Choices about Why, When, and How to Conduct Peer Review
Section 2: Selecting Peer Reviewers
Section 3: Working with Peer Reviewers
Section 4: Sharing Peer Reviews with Authors
Section 5: Peer Reviews as Documents of Record
The Association of American University Presses (AAUP) advances the essential role of a global community of publishers whose mission is to ensure academic excellence and cultivate knowledge. High standards of editorial quality and peer review are one of the primary ways that AAUP members advance that mission. Demonstration of these standards in their publication programs is central to the membership eligibility of nonprofit scholarly publishers, and is the very substance of AAUP members' authority to validate and disseminate long-form scholarship.
AAUP offers this handbook of Best Practices for Peer Review as a resource for member publishers, acquisitions editors both new and experienced, faculty editorial boards, scholarly authors and researchers, and new scholarly publishing programs.
The Best Practices handbook was developed by the Association's Acquisitions Editorial Committee through a consensus-building two-year process to articulate a set of practices that comprise a rigorous process of peer review. The Committee has rightly noted that, "the peer review process is highly complex, involves many individuals, and must be responsive to the norms of the appropriate fields." Disciplinary expectations, administrative procedures, inter-disciplinary and creative works, and innovative publishing formats may all demand changes in approach. However, well-reasoned differences in practices can only be evaluated against a solid understanding of what constitutes a standard practice of high-quality peer review.
The effort to draft these Best Practices began under the aegis of the 2014-15 AAUP Acquisitions Editorial Committee, chaired by Mary Francis (then at California, now Michigan) and was completed by the 2015-16 Committee, chaired by Mick Gusinde-Duffy (Georgia.) The committee gathered information and feedback from a wide subset of AAUP member publishers to ensure the document is broadly reflective of accepted standards. An early draft was brought to a Peer Review Collaboration Lab, organized by Dan Williams (TCU), at AAUP's 2015 Annual Meeting in Denver. The final document is a product of significant work and consultation from many individuals in the AAUP community, and AAUP is grateful for all these contributions.
The core values of the Association include integrity, diversity, intellectual freedom, and stewardship. These values are reflected in work our members do to promote and disseminate scholarship, and the standards of peer review in monographic publishing are a key part of what sustains them. Best Practices for Peer Review helps to articulate how this works and will be a living foundation for integrity and stewardship.
Association of American University Presses
Mick Gusinde-Duffy, Georgia (chair)
Mary Elizabeth Braun, Oregon State
Catherine Cocks, Iowa
Mary C. Francis, Michigan
Christie Henry, Chicago
Micah Kleit, Temple
Philip Leventhal, Columbia
Gita Manaktala, MIT
Matt McAdam, Johns Hopkins
Why Peer Review is Important
Peer review is essential to the university press mission of advancing and disseminating scholarship. Peer review is the process through which university press editors commission formal evaluations from respected experts (“peers”) on the contribution to scholarship, teaching, and public debate of a work being considered for publication. These formal evaluations are considered by press staff and shared and discussed with authors as a crucial prepublication step in an editor’s evaluation of the merits of proposed projects. This process provides feedback that is both stringent and fair, enables an author to strengthen a work in progress, and adds value and meaning to the work that is ultimately published, helping inform the deliberations of press staff. By facilitating the review process, university press editors enlist the expertise of a wide community of experts to create productive conversations between reviewers and the authors whose work they are asked to evaluate.
As a principal university press advocate, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) actively supports the essential role peer review plays in developing and validating high quality scholarly publications. This is reflected in the AAUP’s membership eligibility requirements, which require some form of peer review for projects published by member presses.
The purpose of this document, written by the AAUP’s Acquisitions Editorial Committee, is to articulate a set of practices that comprise a rigorous process of peer review. The Committee acknowledges, however, that the peer review process is highly complex, involves many individuals, and must be responsive to the norms of the appropriate fields. Thus, while the steps discussed below are recognized as generally acceptable best practices, this document is not intended to prescribe the conduct of an acceptable peer review in every case. Moreover, though strong peer reviews are necessary for moving forward with a project, they form only one part of a broad range of factors, including considerations of fit and budget, that together lead to a publishing decision.
(c) 2016 by the Association of American University Presses. Best Practices in Peer Review is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/.