Front Page of the NYT: Scholars Test Web Alternative to Peer Review

The New York Times has now pushed to the front page of today’s
paper an issue of real relevance to INET: how new web tools are
beginning to upend traditional peer review in academia.
Today a small vanguard of digitally adept scholars is rethinking how knowledge is understood and judged by inviting online readers to comment on books in progress, compiling journals from blog posts and sometimes successfully petitioning their universities to grant promotions and tenure on the basis of non-peer-reviewed projects….
Just a few years ago these sorts of developments would have been unthinkable, said Dan Cohen, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason University. “Serious scholars are asking whether the institutions of the academy — as they have existed for decades, even centuries — aren’t becoming obsolete,” he said….

To Mr. Cohen, the most pressing intellectual issue in the next decade is this tension between the insular, specialized world of expert scholarship and the open and free-wheeling exchange of information on the Web. “And academia,” he said, “is caught in the middle.”

INET has seen this development early, and is promoting this new thinking, and the new, younger thinkers who often champion these ideas. We also are introducing new tools and approaches as we begin to build a community around this website.

I always consider an idea that makes the front page of the New York Times as the sign that the idea is now getting mainstreamed or legitimatized. And so here’s one more sign that big changes are coming to Academia sooner than most think….