Peer reviewing has been an integral part of the editing and publishing process since scholarly journals were established and is used as a form of regulation by scholarly journals spanning many fields. The traditional method of using scholars who are anonymous to the author for the critique is employed to ensure quality, improve the presentation, and offer credibility. All scholars know that they must undergo the process of having their article peer reviewed if they would like it to be printed in a decent journal and many of them are welcome to the assistance that it provides. This collaborative process allows an author to reach their full potential within their article with the help of other experts in their field. Essentially, the process of peer review is literature’s way of adopting its own scientific method, “principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses.”  The authors present their hypothesis to the reviewers and they, in turn, decide if it is a valid theory worthy of publication in a scholarly journal. Recently, some people have begun to question the stringency of the process and whether or not it should be opened to become more of a dialogue between contributors instead of shut away with such strict confidentiality. What I found to be interesting about Howard’s article was the hesitation shown by everyone involved in the testing of open reviewing when it seems to be a fantastic way to streamline the peer editing process. I think that they should have been more confident in their abilities and in the new process. And I believe that an open peer reviewing system is going to become the new norm because it is a phenomenal process that allows many individuals to have a voice.
As students, we have been told time and time again that we must only use articles that have been peer reviewed because those that have not gone through the traditional process are not deemed credible enough for any of their information to be of use to us. Every single time that I have done research for a paper I have always held in my mind the rule that if an article has not been peer reviewed then it is not worth my time. It is now an automatic function for me to check the “Peer Reviewed” box on all of the search engines while I am looking for articles that support my own theory.
Scholarly journals are all essentially required to employ some form of the peer review process; most of them allow only forms that are at least partially blind because it is believed that this provides a more credible review. A “double blind” review is the most common in the scientific community; in this form the reviewer and the author both remain anonymous to the other. The “single” review is the form that many literature journals have adopted, and what we are doing for our own editing assignments, where the identity of the reviewer is not disclosed to the author but the reviewer is aware of the authors’ name.
Generally a journal searches out individuals of similar competence to the producers of the submitted works to participate in the process; but one such journal decided to try a very different strategy for one of their issues. The Shakespeare Quarterly that is sponsored by the Folger Shakespeare Library chose to test out the new concept of the open review for one of their issues with varying degrees of feedback from both reviewers and authors on the experiment. The articles that were chosen for the trial were posted online in their original draft and opened for other scholars to read and critique as they wished.  The transparency of the project was its most striking quality for me; not only were the authors’ names shared with the reviewers, but the reviewers’ names were placed with every single comment that they made in the article. I would think that knowing their names were going to appear alongside their comments and edits would have made the reviewers take a little more time and put a little more thought into what they were saying. It seems, from the feedback that the journal got from the reviewers and authors, to have forced more accountability onto those peers who gave their input.
Although the process is generally considered to be essential to the quality of academic work, peer review has been criticized as ineffective, and slow. Richard Horton, the editor of the British medical journal The Lancet, said: “The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than just a crude means of discovering the acceptability – not the validity – of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong.”  I personally find his view a tad too harsh; there are many ways that the peer reviewing process can enhance the quality of articles, though the new development of “open peer review” could be a better fit, at least in the world of literature.
One of the criticisms of the open review system, and probably a big reason as to why it has not been attempted by legitimate journals in the past, is because scholars are concerned with the quality of the comments and edits made by those who may not have the right qualifications to comment on an article. This was a concern of many of the authors whose articles were chosen to be a part of this experiment, that their article would no longer be considered as professional because it may not get reviewed by the correct people. I was surprised myself when they found that the open process was just as controlled as the traditional review and that many of the academic hierarchies were kept in place. I would have expected people to have been so excited about the possibility of contributing to a journal that they would jump at the opportunity even if they knew that they weren’t qualified. But those junior scholars who wanted to contribute contacted the author offline because they did not want to post their comments online in case the contradicted with the senior scholars which seemed like a very polite way to go about it.
Another concern that was brought up was the question of how to ensure that the journals are not catering to what the masses enjoy as opposed to legitimate scholarly work. If a paper goes online and people are bored or uninterested in the topic they may leave bad reviews or completely pass over it for another, more interesting one. I believe that the form in which these papers are set up online ensures that they get the proper responses from the proper individuals who would take an interest in any scholarly topic. Even if a paper topic is seen as boring to some doesn’t mean that it should not be published. Another question to counter this objection is how can we be sure that this is not already happening in our traditional peer review process. If a paper is only sent to a few scholars to be reviewed and one finds it uninteresting and gives negative comments the paper may not make it into the journal because of an individuals’ bias. This may happen regardless, but if articles were posted in a public forum they have a better chance at getting reviewed by the right people.
I found that in the scientific community there have been some journals that have begun to make changes of their own just like the Shakespeare Quarterly. One of the British medical journals has required that all reviewers must sign their reviews and that all of the comments made on the article must go to the author, much like the open review process that the Shakespeare Quarterly attempted. The argument now is whether or not assigning the reviewers names to the articles promotes accountability or if the anonymity helps maintain their objectivity as they read through prospective journal articles. Horton states that “Journals are not anonymous, he argues, and neither are people who write letters to the editor, so why are peer reviewers? I think it’ll be as quaint in 20 years’ time to have anonymous reviewers as it would be to send anonymous letters to the editor.” Personally I am inclined to agree with him.
The process of an open review system offers much more insight into an article or essay that the author may not have had access to when under the double- or single-blind system that is normally used in scholarly institutions. I would compare the open peer review system to a conference setting. The papers are not necessarily finished or polished but the authors bring them before others in order to get more insight into what they are trying to convey. Comments are given and questions are asked which make the author take a closer look at their work, which in turn makes a better final product. The open peer review process is much like an online version of a scholarly conference. I think that the open form of reviewing gives a more honest view as to why an article is accepted or rejected and having it be available for more scholars to contribute means that more people are working to make that article as good as it can possibly be. A larger number of contributors means more opportunities for improvement and healthy debate; we in the academic world could literally watch the entire process unfold with this kind of transparency which I believe would be beneficial for everyone.
 Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 3rd ed. s.v. “Scientific Method.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/scientific%20method
 Jennifer Howard, “Leading Humanities Journal Tries ‘Open’ Peer Review, and Likes It”, http://web.a.ebscohost.com/ehost/detail/detail?sid=774c95f2-4a12-4092-8e13-888c58220632%40sessionmgr4003&vid=0&hid=4101&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=53020369
 Alison McCook, “Is Peer Review Broken?”, accessed March 3, 2015, http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/23672/title/Is-Peer-Review-Broken-/
 Peer Review Congress, http://www.peerreviewcongress.org/index.html
 At least one participant pointed out that the humanities’ subjective, conversational tendencies may make them well suited to open review–better suited, perhaps, than the sciences.