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The death of peer review

Not Making Software Un-Social If the peer-review process isn’t working well, how do we fix it?

1. Start a professional conversation among concerned colleagues.

2. Publish articles in formal and informal forums.

3. Publish an entire issue of a peer-reviewed journal — the Journal of Access Services — where the sole contributor is the Annoyed Librarian.

The third answer is the correct one, however bizarre it sounds. But it gets better than that, because even though this stunt had plenty of coverage, it turns out that the journal’s editors weren’t in on the joke.

I am not going to dwell ad infinitum on the Annoyed Librarian. As others have observed, he or she (I’m not convinced AL is female) is obviously a well-placed librarian with a lot of pull — enough to bedazzle magazine owners, especially in financially desperate times. She or he has the gift of the gab, and good connections. Plus AL dwells in the dark side, a place that tempts with the glitter of obsidian.

The best we can all do in life is shed the things that give us grief and focus on our own excellence and the excellence of those around us. I have a lot of things on my mind: how to get everything done at work, the full set of memories I haven’t processed from Australia,  the economy, my writing workshop,  Obama’s administration picks, my Thanksgiving menu (which is trending toward oyster stew and pumpkin creme brulee, accompanied by a lovely bottle of wine Doug from CCLA gave me as a going-away gift). I will keep on track, even if the Library Bill of Rights itself gets replaced with the giggling screeds of AL.

I have even pushed away the knowledge that there is a library professor (should I tell you who it is? w)ho has told crowds of people that I am AL. The AL truly is a devil with an MLS.

The one thing that haunts me about Annoyed Librarian is my worry that when we find out who it is, the knowledge will cut like a knife.

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  1. Jon Gorman wrote:

    Well, people starting to suspect that you’re the AL is a bit of a side-effect of claiming to be AL ;). That’s the problem when you post things like “I’m the annoyed librarian” as part of a massive joke/point along with several other bloggers but people only read your blog. Isn’t popularity grand?

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 10:52 am | Permalink
  2. Jon Gorman wrote:

    Almost forgot, despite my fondness for heels and martinis, I do not acknowledge being the AL.

    Besides, I rarely drink before noon on workdays, doesn’t that rule me out?

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 10:54 am | Permalink
  3. Jon, you couldn’t possibly juggle being AL *and* being the toast of C4L’s IRC channel :)

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink
  4. zoe wrote:

    If it were any other publisher besides Haworth I’d be truly shocked. However for some time now there have been many questions about how truly peer-reviewed Haworth journals are. Acquisition by T&F doesn’t seem to have changed that.

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 12:34 pm | Permalink
  5. Bill Drew wrote:

    You are much to serious to be the AL. the Annoyed Librarian may be someone we all know and respect. I do not and never have respected any thing published by Haworth. Third rate magazines from a third rate publisher.

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 3:39 pm | Permalink
  6. You’re nothing like the AL at all. She/He/It may have wiped out the original AL blog, but the tone, the petulant nature of the posts…very memorable in a bad way– nah not you.

    I agree the AL is likely a guy. Once “he” is unmasked it will be like one of the old wrestlers who aren’t so interesting anymore once they’re revealed to be a boring old bald guy.

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 3:58 pm | Permalink
  7. Last year there were rumblings on this very blog about Haworth. So it’s interesting, Haworth took the bait — and through this action, reinforced popular opinion.

    Friday, November 21, 2008 at 5:10 pm | Permalink
  8. Somewhere in the dim past I remember reading a funny editorial about “straw-value” press, but I can’t find it. It might even have been a John Berry editorial. Anyone out there have a citation?

    Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 8:50 am | Permalink
  9. I’m still not convinced about this ‘death of peer review’. I mean, the problem in the Journal of Access Services doesn’t even have anything to do with the peer review *process*. In fact, bypassing the process is what turned the journal into a joke.

    Outside of the profession, peer review works remarkably well. If we are concerned about the quality of within our own profession, then 1) we need to confirm that this is in fact a problem, and 2) determine why. Are editorial boards setting standards too low?

    Anyway, I’d love more clarification on this problem of the process.

    Monday, November 24, 2008 at 10:46 pm | Permalink
  10. Andrew, that’s an extreme title, but I go back to my statement. Did this approach fix peer review? Is it always broken in LibraryLand,or some of the time (Haworth being one strong possible example)?

    It’s fun to burrow into the vortex. It’s so easy to be negative. It’s so much harder to hunker down and fix things.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  11. Dale wrote:

    I’m not commenting on the Annoyed Lib. I just can’t bring myself to care. (I mean, to care about that person.)

    However, I am a reviewer for a journal in our fine profession (RUSQ). Is the journal perfect? No, it’s not.

    But I think it’s a good journal and I think it adds to the knowledge about librarianship. I know that the peer review process works well there, as I’ve seen articles be greatly improved, authors encouraged, hypotheses tightened, and so on.

    On the downside, the process is very slow. And there is always a shortage of reviewers who will do more than just say “publish as is” or “don’t publish”.

    As a working library administrator, I find very little time to turn to the research literature. I do read a few journals, but not as many as I might.

    I read a lot of news about libraries (and share interesting bits with colleagues), a little opinion, a even less research. Maybe I’m part of the problem with journals of research–that is, who is reading them?

    Wednesday, November 26, 2008 at 10:55 pm | Permalink
  12. Dale, you raise the most important questions, including how we empower expertise in a new environment.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

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