Peer Review

is the process in which subject experts read through content and provide critical feedback and suggestions to improve the resource for its intended audience. It can take place at many stages in the publishing process. When we speak about peer review, we are typically talking about review that takes place before your book is published or officially released. However, peer review can also take place after the book is released – called .

Peer review is invaluable for ensuring the quality of educational content, and is integral to the production of open texts, just as it is for scholarly monographs and journals. Its presence signals that the work has passed through rigorous quality control and that the content is suitable for use in the classroom.

This is especially significant when working with OER, as the quality, comprehensiveness, clarity, and currency of open texts and OER is often called into question. OER, due to their low-cost nature and ease of creation/publication, is mistakenly perceived as low-quality. Peer review is important to dispel these notions and to encourage wider use and adoption of the book – which is ultimately the goal of most projects. Not only does it give a public indicator of quality to potential adopters, but it also provides you with a feeling of security that the content developed is in keeping with the expertise within the field. Peer review is fundamentally a means for you to receive valuable feedback on your text’s content and make it stronger. It’s a chance for you to share your book with subject experts and ensure that the content is appropriate, accurate, and adequately covers the material.

Developing a Peer Review Process

Identifying who and how to get your open text peer-reviewed can be a challenge. OER are published outside of the traditional publishing framework. Publishers often have identified scholars with relevant expertise in a variety of fields to call upon for peer review for potential publications.  For open text peer review, you will need to work to develop a peer review process and identify reviewers for your text.<

When asking colleagues to peer review your work you want to be specific in the feedback you are hoping to receive.  Editorial feedback should be considered separately from (SME) feedback.  Developing questions to guide the SME will be useful in both getting feedback that is specific to your needs and saving the time of your peer reviewers.

Like other textbook tasks, providing your SME with clear expectations will make this phase of the writing project smoother. It will also save your SME time and frustration. Here are some suggestions:

  • Only give the SME text that needs their input, not the whole textbook (unless it helps with the assessment).
  • Identify the course level and subject matter for which the textbook is intended.
  • Use a rubric that informs the SME about required feedback.
  • Clarify that you are seeking the SME’s expertise on the content, but do not need help with grammar, spelling, layout, or other aspects of the textbook.
  • Give the SME adequate time to conduct the review and set a deadline.

Peer Review Rubric Templates

There are a number of OER review templates available. The following resources provide existing rubrics that can be used for your own peer review feedback questions.

Pressbooks and Hypothes.is

Hypothesis.is is a tool that allows users to openly analyze and annotate digital texts across the web, including web pages, pdfs, and documents loaded to the cloud. For peer review, Hypothesis.is can offer an opportunity to open up the peer review process by allowing readers to add observations, questions and suggestions to text selections. Additionally, Hypothes.is is integrated into Pressbooks, allowing for a seamless experience for reviewers. Learn more about Pressbooks and Hypothes.is in the BCcampus Publising with Pressbooks: A Visual Guide.

Engage in Existing Open Peer Review Processes

BCcampus

The BCcampus Open Textbook Collection offers a process for peer review before an open textbook is made available through their collection. If you submit your textbook to BCcampus your text will be listed as an option for peer review. Your textbook must meet the collection standards for BCcampus. To learn more about BCcampus’s selection process, review the Suggestion for Collection Guidelines.

Rebus Community

Rebus Community is an initiative of the Rebus Foundation, a Canadian registered charity. Rebus Community supports open publishing by providing a space to:

  • start an open textbook project
  • give and receive guidance on publishing open textbooks
  • post and respond to calls for contributors and reviewers, and
  • connect with global communities that are changing the world through Open Education

Rebus Community offers the opportunity to develop a review community around your open text. To learn about the review opportunities available in the Rebus Community, browse the Open Text Directory.

Finding Peer Reviewers

Finding peer reviewers may be as simple as looking to your own colleagues.

Invite colleagues to serve as subject-matter experts (SME) and conduct a peer review of your work before it goes to copy editing. To avoid any potential questions around impartiality, avoid close colleagues and collaborators. You may also choose to develop a call for peer reviews and send it to listservs and associations in your field.

Recognizing Peer Reviewers

Presses generally offer readers an honorarium in return for their evaluations. That the compensation is an honorarium, not a fee, is important. First, using the term “honorarium” highlights the fact that peer review is a responsibility academics bear as members of the scholarly community. Second, the term points to the fact that a press is not buying an expert opinion in the way that, say, a defense attorney may pay an expert to offer a particular reading of the evidence. A peer reviewer is expected to provide an unbiased, candid, well-supported evaluation of a project’s merits.

Honoraria amounts vary widely. The amounts should reflect the scope of the work the reviewer is being asked to do; honoraria are typically larger for full textbooks than for individual chapters or parts. In addition, asking a peer reviewer to evaluate a particularly long manuscript or to provide a report in an unusually short amount of time often warrants increasing the amount of an honorarium.

Examples – Honorarium for Open Textbooks

  • BCcampus – $250 honorarium as a token of our gratitude for evaluating and improving the materials being created.
  • Open Ed Manitoba – $250 honorarium is available to Manitoba instructors for reviewing open textbooks.
  • BCcampus & Langara College – BCcampus offers a $250 honorarium with a matching $250 from Open Langara for Langara faculty engaging in peer review of open textbooks.

License

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UBC Open Text Publishing Guide by Erin Fields; Amanda Grey; Donna Langille; and Clair Swanson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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