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Future of Scholarly Communication, Ap 17

Date: Wednesday - April 17, 2013
Time: 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Location: Sprague/ Carleton, Student Center

Open Review and the Future of Scholarly Communication

Kathleen Fitzpatrick, Director of Scholarly Communication at the Modern Language Association

Kathleen Fitzpatrick is the director of scholarly communication at the Modern Language Association, and was formerly a professor of media studies at Pomona College. Last year, she was named one of "12 Tech Innovators" by the Chronicle of Higher Education for her efforts at reforming peer review and her work transforming the MLA's approach to the web and to social media. She is the author of Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy (NYU Press, 2011), and The Anxiety of Obsolescence: The American Novel in the Age of Television (Vanderbilt UP, 2006), and co-founded the digital scholarly network MediaCommons. She has also been a contributor to ProfHacker.

To give a sense of what her talk will entail, here are the concluding sentences from Planned Obsolescence's chapter on "Peer Review":

. . . the materials used for tenure review are meant in some sense to be metonymic, standing in for the "promise" of all the future work that a scholar will do. We currently reduce such "promise" to the existence of a certain quantity of texts; we need instead to shift our focus to active scholarly engagement of the sort peer-to-peer review might help us produce. Requiring an up-or-down measurement of impact, promise, or engagement, or even relying on computationally produced metrics, can never provide an adequate substitute for the real work such credentialing bodies must do: reading and assessing the scholarship and engaging with expert analysis on the relationship between the scholarship and the field. It is in part our desire for shortcuts, for a clear and quantifiable set of benchmarks by which we can judge "quality" without having to do the labor ourselves, that has gotten the academy into its current predicament, in which the very systems of production on which it relies are crumbling. Until institutional assumptions about how scholarly work should be assessed are changed—but moreover, until we come to understand peer review as part of an ongoing conversation among scholars rather than a convenient means of determining "value" without all that inconvenient reading and discussion—the processes of evaluation for tenure and promotion are doomed to become a monster that eats its young, trapped in an early-twentieth-century model of scholarly production that simply no longer works.

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