After spotting the report by Claire Squires, Simon Rowberry and Dorothy Butchard, researchers on the Peer Review project at Stirling, during Peer Review Week 2016, we contacted them for a post on their report, the project itself and why they are conducting a project on peer review in the arts and humanities.  

Researchers at the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication (SCIPC) are working on a research project looking at peer review in the arts and humanities, as part of the broader AHRC/British Library-funded Academic Book of the Future project.

Peer review is one of the most contentious aspects of academic publishing and tends to generate fierce debate, often based on anecdotal evidence and personal opinion. The academics working on the project at Stirling, Professor Claire Squires, Dr Simon Rowberry, and Dr Dorothy Butchard, are seeking to examine this system on a larger scale. They’re doing so by addressing a series of questions which emerge from tensions in peer review practices:

  • What are contemporary models of peer review?
  • Where does peer review occur in the research and publication process?
  • What is the role of peer review in institutional structures (e.g. individual HEIs, REF, HEFCE/SFC, RCUK)?
  • How are reviewers guided towards writing useful feedback?
  • What could peer review look like in the future?

Peer Review Models: Traditional; Existing Alternatives and Proposed Alternatives

The researchers have recently released a pre-publication version of their report ‘Peer Review in Practice’. The report identifies nine common themes central to improving the future of peer review: efficiency; overall cost; credit; respondability; peerness; revisionality; mobility; automation; and technical mediation. These are evaluated and illustrated through a series of visualisations.

Professor Squires says, ‘Often what you see in discussions of peer review is on the one hand “horror stories” of bad peer review practice, or on the other an unquestioned assumption that peer review is crucial to academic excellence. We’ve set out to find an evidenced understanding of current and potential future practices of peer review, particularly in the arts and humanities, although the research has applicability to all fields.’

Squires added that, ‘We are actively seeking responses to our pre-publication release of the report, and encourage researchers to contribute to our thinking by commenting on the report itself.’

The project is now moving on to consider the language of peer review.


SGSAH workshop (August, 2016)

The research team has also been working the Scottish Graduate School for Arts & Humanities (SGSAH) to deliver a series of workshops for PhD students looking at aspects of academic publishing and reviewing practices.

More information can be found on the project website.


Professor Claire Squires is the Director of the Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication at the University of Stirling, Scotland, and Honorary Professor in 20th/21st book studies and publishing at UCL. Her publications include Marketing Literature: The Making of Contemporary Writing in Britain (2007) and ‘The Digital Publishing Communications Circuit’ (2013). She is a judge for the Saltire Society Publisher of the Year Award, and a Scottish Book Trust New Writer Awardee. Her research includes the AHRC Digital Transformations R&D project ‘The Book Unbound: Disruption and Disintermediation in the Digital Age’ and the NESTA/AHRC/Creative Scotland-funded CReATeS (Consortium for Research into Arts and Technology in Scotland). She tweets from @stirpublishing and @ClaireSquires

Simon Rowberry (@sprowberry) is a Lecturer in Digital Media & Publishing. His research interests include digital publishing and data-driven methodologies in creative industries.

Dr Dorothy Butchard (@dkbutchard) is a Research Associate for the Peer Review project based at Stirling and a Teaching Fellow in 20th Century & Contemporary Literature at the University of Birmingham. Her research explores literary responses to digital technologies in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century.