Peer review provides important feedback on accuracy and quality, adding a diverse set of perspectives on the text.
While there are many people throughout the process who also contribute to the overall value and credibility of your open textbook, the peer reviewers provide feedback from a position that is less close to the creation process. This can be important for checking bias and helping identify questions or concerns that might otherwise go overlooked.
Our guide to the peer review process provides a number of recommendations for making this phase of the project as productive and successful as possible.
What is peer review and why does it matter?
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 post-publication peer review. This guide will largely focus on pre-publication peer review, which can take place at a few different stages before the book is published.
Peer review is invaluable for ensuring the quality of educational content, and is integral to the production of textbooks, just as it is for scholarly monographs and journals. Its presence signals to a prospective adopter that the work has passed through rigorous quality control, and that its 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 textbooks and open educational resources (OER) is often called into question by naysayers. OER, due to their low-cost nature and ease of creation/publication, are 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 experience tells us reviewers very often end up adopting the text they’ve reviewed themselves, so it’s great ‘advertising.’
External perception aside, peer review is fundamentally a means for you to receive valuable feedback on your book’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.
Type of reviewers
In an anonymous peer review process, authors and reviewers’ identities will be unknown. Conversely, if you don’t want to keep the process anonymous, your identity will be known, which might allow authors, editors, and reviewers to receive “prestige” value (we think all kinds of review are equally valuable and prestigious, but the reality is that opinions and perceptions differ).