Crowdsourcing, Reference Works, and Peer Review: Some Surprising Connections – The Scholarly Kitchen

A very interesting post in the Scholarly Kitchen today, Crowdsourcing, Reference Works, and Peer Review: Some surprising Connections.  Kent Anderson, the author of the post, discusses a plenary session at the PSP conference and the debate that ensued around the future of the reference book.  A clip from Anderson’s post:

Last week, during the PSP plenary debate that touched on the future of the reference book, the opposition made two statements as if they were unassailable facts:

  1. Getting authors to write things is expensive and requires a lot of motivation that only the prestige and importance of the current system can generate
  2. Quality reference information can’t be generated via crowdsourcing

These are not unusual arguments in support of traditional publishing approaches, and by raising them, I’m not revisiting the debate. The debate merely provides a good recent example. I bring it up because recently, a study was published that throws both of these common assertions into some doubt. And by examining the study and extending the logic of its findings, I think it also hints that perhaps collaboration in scholarly publishing is more important generally than we might appreciate, something that has implications for those proposing new forms of peer-review, like the always provocative Vitek Tracz.

Anderson summarizes his post with, “This new study about how reference works can be generated suggests that collaboration itself is vital to higher quality outputs, but also suggests that there are new, less expensive, and effective ways to collaborate. It leaves unanswered the question whether we should collaborate before or after publication — which is not a mutually exclusive choice. But it does make me think a little differently about the strength of pre-publication peer-review.  Maybe one strength we’ve been overlooking is that traditional peer-review forces smart people to collaborate. Post-publication review doesn’t seem positioned to harness this advantage.”