But peer review is a crushingly slow, turgid process. Established in the age when mail was delivered in horse cars, and no one expected or anything like fast communication, it coasts along on an earlier generation’s low expectations. Peer review is hard work for the reviewer, and more important, it’s both uncompensated and, for the most part, extremely unrewarding. You get nothing for your efforts except perhaps some books and a thank you. It’s a professional obligation, not a professional pleasure.
Suppose the editor were more like a moderator–someone who set an agenda, or a subject, and then oversaw discussion?
Suppose the job of editing and commenting looked more like this? Moderated, live interactions, and an ongoing discussion among peers. An editor might choose one article a week. He or she would post the article with a comment on its merits/weaknesses. Readers could then comment in real time, acting as peer reviewers, with the editor acting to “prune” and police the comments. All readers would see opinion evolving, and see the process of peer review in action.
Or suppose the profession adopted the model used in “layer tennis.” Dan Cohen has blogged about this: in this model a graphic designer sets up a problem in design, an then two graphic designers bat designs back an forth. Designer one posts his version, designer two posts his: they engage in a dialogue about the design and their goals. The exchange is moderated, designs commented upon; new versions submitted, and the process continues.