Feminist Futures of Peer Review
Thanks for joining us for Feminist Futures of Peer Review!
It is really encouraging to see so many authors, publishers, editors, students, and reviewers committed to making peer review and scholarly publishing more sustainable, equitable, and feminist.
Below is the video recording as well as resources to help you dive more deeply into the issues we discussed and get interdisciplinary publishing support from the Ideas on Fire team.
00:00:04:01 – 00:00:14:21
Cathy Hannabach: Okay. So, it looks like the attendees have stabilized so we can go ahead and get started.
I want to thank you all for being here for Feminist Futures of Peer Review.
00:00:14:23 – 00:00:47:09
Cathy Hannabach: I’m your host, Cathy Hannabach, the founder and CEO of Ideas on Fire, the academic editing and indexing agency helping interdisciplinary, progressive scholars write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations like this one, and ultimately create more just worlds.
So, it’s no secret that the standard peer review model is in some pretty deep crisis.
Press acquisitions editors, conference planners ,and journal editors are struggling to find enough peer reviewers to cover their massive backlogs.
00:00:47:11 – 00:01:21:20
Cathy Hannabach: But at the same time, faculty reviewers are by and large pretty overwhelmed and exhausted by the deluge of new responsibilities that have been brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, state attacks on tenure and diversity, austerity politics, and commercial publishing models that tend to incentivize more and more research output at the expense of care and sustainability.
And of course, this is compounded for those of us in various marginalized subject positions because we’re often fighting multiple of these fires on multiple fronts.
00:01:21:22 – 00:01:51:14
Cathy Hannabach: Despite those challenges, though, and we’ll get to some of the details of that today, folks in feminist and justice-oriented fields have developed what I think are some really inspiring alternative models for peer review and for knowledge production more broadly.
I wanted to organize today’s event to center that in the peer review crisis discourse and to discuss how some of those practices might be adopted or adapted more broadly and in other contexts.
00:01:51:16 – 00:02:17:05
Cathy Hannabach: I’m honored to be joined here today with three fellow interdisciplinary scholars who are also fantastic IoF authors to explore how we are all navigating peer review right now in our different roles.
I’d like to introduce you all to April D.J. Petillo, the coeditor of the groundbreaking journal Feminist Anthropology as well as an assistant professor of public sociology at Northern Arizona University.
00:02:17:07 – 00:02:43:07
Cathy Hannabach: We also have Josen Masangkay Diaz, associate professor of ethnic studies at the University of San Diego and author of the book Postcolonial Configurations: Dictatorship, the Racial Cold War ,and Filipino America.
We also have Dolores Inés Casillas, professor of Chicana and Chicano studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of the book Sounds of Belonging: US Spanish-Language Radio and Public Advocacy.
00:02:43:09 – 00:03:04:00
Cathy Hannabach: The way this event is going to go is that the four of us will address some key questions and themes that we’ve identified and prepared ahead of time, and then there will be time at the end for Q&A.
So, if you have a question that you want us to address in that Q&A session, go ahead and open the Q&A box at the bottom of your screen right there and you can pop your question in there.
00:03:04:02 – 00:03:28:01
Cathy Hannabach: Our fabulous Sara Bernstein is going to be fielding those. She’ll also be in the chat, and we’ll try to get to as many of those questions as possible.
So, to kick off our conversation today, what are some ways that you have infused feminist politics and ethics into your approach to peer review as an author, an editor, a reviewer, or maybe all three of those things?
00:03:28:03 – 00:04:10:09
Cathy Hannabach: April do you want to start us off?
April D.J. Petillo: Sure, I’m happy to. I think for me in this conversation, it’s important to identify within feminism the kind of the approach, generally speaking, that I embrace, which is absolutely an intersectional, anti-carceral perspective around getting to a place of multilayered equity and, for lack of a better word, liberation within our spaces
00:04:10:11 – 00:04:49:09
April D.J. Petillo: Part of what that has meant is that I try to examine the systems at play. I’m a sociologist by training, so I’m thinking about social interactions with institutions, what that means, how it influences us, and how we influence that.
As someone who works as a coeditor, actively looking for peer reviewers and often working with authors, I will admit I’ve had a bad review or two reaction at times.
00:04:49:09 – 00:05:35:06
April D.J. Petillo: So, I want to create space where especially emerging authors, emerging scholars, have a better Reviewer 2 experience than I’ve had sometimes in the past.
What that means is being expansive in thinking about who we request at Feminist Anthropologist for peer review, where we’re often looking for people who aren’t just run-of-the-mill subject experts but people who understand what’s going on in a particular area or some of the nuances and innovations within the field.
00:05:35:08 – 00:06:12:02
April D.J. Petillo: And we’re also trying to encourage learning how to do peer review because when I did my first peer review, I spent a good week researching how to do it because they don’t, my graduate program didn’t train me in how to do that. And the journal I was reviewing for at that time didn’t have any guidelines.
So, for instance, one of the things we do is we provide a list of very specific questions for the article to guide that process.
00:06:12:04 – 00:06:49:00
April D.J. Petillo: A lot of that work as an editor comes from my experience both as an author and a reviewer. My first article was in what I call dissertation voice. And as a Brown woman in the academy, you’ve got to use the $25 words, as I call them sometimes, which means that a lot of people who you want to be reading your stuff, they’re not really going to read it because nobody has that bank account, so to speak.
00:06:49:03 – 00:07:23:15
April D.J. Petillo: So, it’s been a process, I think, of trying to think through and focus on the intention and find ways of putting that into the process of thinking through review, particularly around scholarly articles.
And I have to say, I think that’s bled into all kinds of other areas for me. Now, when I write, I’m thinking about what might I as a reviewer want to see if someone’s approaching it from this perspective.
00:07:23:17 – 00:07:50:11
April D.J. Petillo: And as a reviewer, I really try to ensure that I’m doing a lot of work to offer pathways and suggestions as opposed to a supremacist, patriarchal you must do it this way, this is the only way approach. And I think that I’m going to hush up and share.
00:07:50:13 – 00:08:11:14
Josen Masangkay Diaz: I can also try to touch on a lot of things April said. I think really that when I did my first review, I treated it in some ways like graduate seminar, which is not the way that I do right now, which is, well, this is what’s wrong with it and this is what’s wrong with it. And I’ve learned a lot that it’s just not helpful for me.
00:08:11:14 – 00:08:35:01
Josen Masangkay Diaz: It’s not helpful for the people that I’m reviewing. When I was thinking about this question, I was thinking a lot about engaging an ethic of generosity in my reviews, I think the hard part for me is that is sometimes seen as antithetical to rigor, but it doesn’t have to be. A lot of the most brilliant mentors I’ve had are some of the most generous people I’ve been around as well.
00:08:35:02 – 00:08:55:02
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So, in a lot of ways, an ethic of generosity to me is, you know, really meeting people at their arguments rather than beginning at a place of fault, which is, I think where I started when I was doing review, which is sometimes how grad, you know, graduate schools, often I remember a graduate advisor saying, you know, is there anything good about this piece?
00:08:55:03 – 00:09:18:06
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And we’re like, no, no, there, there isn’t, which is such a strange way, I think, to engage intellectual work. So yeah, really thinking about how to not impose my own academic investments onto others work so I can speak as a reviewer.
I’m often asking myself what does the author want to do rather than what should they be doing?
00:09:18:08 – 00:09:45:17
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And then what are ways that I can help them accomplish this. So, I focus on those very specific ways, whether it’s evidence or all of these things that I think can feel more material.
So, here’s one example. There was a time I didn’t necessarily agree with an author’s reading of a very specific text that I was really familiar with, but it was an essay that I really did feel was going to advance the conversation in really interesting ways regardless.
00:09:45:17 – 00:10:13:17
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So, my disagreement was really rooted in just the different ways that, you know, in terms of discipline that we were engaging with the text. But I didn’t see the actual essay as approaching as having anything kind of fundamentally wrong with it or politically suspect about the essay.
And so, you know, at least just sort of like a mantra talking myself through like, right, like, what do authors want to do with this thing and how again, do we help them do that?
00:10:13:17 – 00:10:46:05
Dolores Inés Casillas: Those are a really great comments. I was thinking more of the fact that we’re trained or socialized to have a thick skin where we accept feedback and told that we are going to grow as scholars and be sharper scholars in how we listen, take, and incorporate that feedback.
And I really want to encourage a model where we grow in how we give feedback.
00:10:46:07 – 00:11:19:18
Dolores Inés Casillas: How we give feedback actually defines us as scholars and less so how we’re going to take it. I think about starting from there. I’m hoping that other people replicate this sense of generosity, as you mentioned as well.
So that’s one thing I think that I’m trying to get at. I think after all these years, getting into that mindset of a very different kind of give or take mindset because people have a really…if you’re not going to communicate something productive, then people are not going to act on it and then it just doesn’t move.
00:11:19:18 – 00:11:55:06
Dolores Inés Casillas: It really is counterintuitive to what peer feedback, peer review is supposed to be like.
Cathy Hannabach: It is a really interesting way to flip that very common narrative and gets at some of that generosity, Josen, that you are making about the point isn’t to tear apart this thing. There’s nothing particularly peer about that, right? I completely agree that a lot of graduate training encourages us to think that way, and we have to unlearn that as we come out of that.
00:11:55:08 – 00:12:21:23
Cathy Hannabach: There’s this way of approaching review as a kind of political and ethical practice on the part of both us doing reviewing and then also how that reviewing circulates and the social relationships that it either enables or can destroy in the communities that we care about. I think is a really different way of approaching review than I think a lot of us got training in.
00:12:21:23 – 00:12:58:11
Cathy Hannabach: And it’s encouraging to see us adopt that in different contexts. I’m curious how you all are navigating some of these challenges that I’ve been talking about.
Obviously, April, you mentioned it’s tough to find reviewers for journals. It’s tough to find reviewers for tenure packages. It’s tough to find reviewers for books. It’s tough to find reviewers! And of course, as reviewers, we’re just frickin’ exhausted. Often, because the peer review system is set up such that reviewers are the reviewed, the authors are also reviewers.
00:12:58:11 – 00:13:13:09
Cathy Hannabach: So, this is the same pool of people. I’m curious how you’re all navigating this in the various roles that you inhabit, how you’re navigating some of these challenges.
00:13:13:11 – 00:13:48:14
April D.J. Petillo: So, I’ll jump in. I think as an editor, they always tell you, lean on your networks. I’m also a pretty social, chatty creature. So, I do things to expand my network with absolutely upfront intention to expand the people I might be able to tap on the shoulder when I need a peer review.
00:13:48:16 – 00:14:33:19
April D.J. Petillo: Part of that means, much like has already been said, even building that network is a place of engaging a care ethic, a generosity ethic.
I often talk about it as a collaborative space because I think for tenure review, for grant review, for academic publishing review, part of this is that we’re coming from, I like to think of it as, a co-created community of inquiry, and that requires an approach that is all about collaborating.
00:14:33:21 – 00:14:58:16
April D.J. Petillo: So, you know, I just try to be upfront about those things. I think also, you know, and it’s kind of scary, I guess, to say it in a public forum, but I do let people know as I need them. I’m going to be going up for tenure soon. And don’t be surprised if you get tapped on the shoulder for that.
00:14:58:17 – 00:15:23:19
April D.J. Petillo: There’s part of me that’s like, all right, that’s just my ethic and my approach. But I do often try to, for my less outgoing colleagues or for the people that I know who are doing very important but specific work, that they’re not going to have as broad a community to pull from and I try to amplify their voices and their need.
00:15:23:20 – 00:15:59:06
April D.J. Petillo: Because I believe in the feminist process of naming something upfront and then trying to collaboratively get community to engage within that process. Yeah.
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So, I think I can kind of speak to two things. I want to also agree with you, but as a less chatty person, I think it’s a little bit harder.
00:15:59:08 – 00:16:23:15
Josen Masangkay Diaz: But I do think that when I’m thinking about it, I will say that when I can’t do a review, I also reach out individually to people who may be able to, rather than just having a cold call email sit on their desk. So, I try not to make recommendations without people knowing that I’m making them.
00:16:23:17 – 00:16:42:18
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So, there’s that. As a reviewer, I think, just like Cathy pointed out, time is a big issue. There are essays that often come to me in Philippine studies more broadly that run the gamut. It’s all kinds of things. And so, I oftentimes struggle with what so many of us struggle with, which is time.
00:16:42:18 – 00:17:09:07
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And so, some of the questions that come to mind are things like, do I say yes to this even though this isn’t necessarily my expertise? And if I don’t say yes, would I be doing the author a disservice? Those are just in terms of…I’m not necessarily, maybe we can talk a little bit more about this or a resolution to that.
Those are some of the challenges that I face often because I do get a lot in my inbox of things that are maybe even remotely related to Philippine studies.
00:17:09:09 – 00:17:43:00
Josen Masangkay Diaz: As an author, I can also speak a little bit to, you know, I often find myself thinking and writing with review parameters in my mind, which is hard for me, because those parameters look like: What are new questions that you’re engaging? What are your new contributions? What are the new archives?
And it’s a challenge to negotiate those specific things with actually how I approach my projects and what really feels good and the ways that I approach my projects, which has a lot less to do with concerns about things that are new and groundbreaking and more to do with my interest in like revisiting old things, you know, in a new moment.
00:17:43:00 – 00:18:11:17
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So at least in terms of naming, as April pointed out, naming the challenge for me as an author is how to figure out that balance between responding to what I know are review guidelines and how they actually engage my work as an author and wanting to be true to that and true to the kinds of things that bring me to the work itself.
00:18:11:19 – 00:18:57:23
Dolores Inés Casillas: I’m trying to be a little bit more pragmatic in how many requests I take. So, I actually just finished one file, a routine kind of personnel file here, and saw that I have done 15 in the last 18 months, and I don’t want to do anything more than that.
So, I have this system where I will choose scholars who seem to be most vulnerable. Like if I’m going to dedicate time, if I’m going to throw my R1 institution behind this and my full professor title behind this and my time away from my family behind this, I’m going to do it to try to make a strong case for somebody who seems like they’re in a more vulnerable position.
00:18:58:00 – 00:19:15:16
Dolores Inés Casillas: So that has been how I’ve chosen things. At one point, I was given a request from an editor, and the editor happened to be a colleague on campus, to review a book, and I had said no. And then I saw them at a campus event, and they said, Oh, I just saw that you said no, I thought you’d be interested.
00:19:17:11 – 00:19:41:20
Dolores Inés Casillas: It’s vaguely in your field. And I said, you know, I’m trying to prioritize women and faculty of color and queer scholars right now because I’m trying not to do a lot. And it had never occurred to them at this journal how many book review requests they’re actually sending out that are exclusively men, exclusively white men.
00:19:41:20 – 00:20:14:00
Dolores Inés Casillas: They completely revamped their policy after that random little coffee exchange we had before a speaker.
So, I think, taking a cue from April, sometimes being really honest with people will have big impacts on how they choose and their own journal guidelines as well. I also like to choose people’s topics to review that seem very interdisciplinary and seem very ambitious.
00:20:14:02 – 00:20:41:20
Dolores Inés Casillas: I feel that people like that take a risk. Selfishly, I like reviewing things like that. So that’s another way that I try to choose people because I also think that they might have the hardest time identifying reviewers as well. And then one thing about boundaries that Josen had said, I think it is hard to stay within the boundaries.
00:20:41:20 – 00:21:09:02
Dolores Inés Casillas: When people give you parameters, I enjoy it because then it seems like it’s an easier review.
I really love to take advantage of the option of private comments to the editor with both a book press or a journal press. I’m constantly in there, and that’s why I emphasize things like I know I said a lot of things about the introduction. Can you please encourage this author that most introductions actually have to be revised?
00:21:09:02 – 00:21:32:13
Dolores Inés Casillas: This is really common. Will you please try to emphasize that, as I did, chapter 3 was amazing? II try to have a written communication with the editor in those private comments. And when I don’t say it in those private comments, I actually have reached out to the press and said is there any way I can write a short follow up to the editor about this?
00:21:32:13 – 00:22:06:06
Dolores Inés Casillas: And they’ve always been very gracious about doing that.
April D.J. Petillo: I just want to jump in to say thank you to both of you as someone who’s actively looking for reviewers. There have been plenty of times where reviewers have had to say no or were not interested, and our ethic has always been that people know their schedules and their realities and we honor that and appreciate that honesty.
00:22:06:06 – 00:22:44:04
April D.J. Petillo: I think in addition, it’s always wonderful when there’s a recommendation for someone to go to and using the private comments box or the editorial comments box so that we can use that to help guide and amplify this particular manuscript or this particular piece.
You know, that has been literally when we have our weekly meeting as editors, we’re jumping up and down, even though we may have had five people say, I can’t possibly do this right now.
00:22:44:06 – 00:23:12:13
April D.J. Petillo: There is a collection of people who will offer up someone else to go to. I think of that as part of building the scholarly community, to bring new people into the reviewer fold.
Cathy Hannabach: I really like the twist on that, though, Josen, that you were pointing out of asking them first or at least checking in with them.
00:23:12:15 – 00:23:29:04
Cathy Hannabach: Just so they’re not getting a cold email from a journal editor that says, hey, you’ve been recommended as the best person for this thing. And you’re like, who are you? And no, I don’t have time for that either. So that kind of ethic of, hey person I know who I think would be good for this, what’s going on in your life?
00:23:29:04 – 00:23:49:21
Cathy Hannabach: Is this something that you’d be okay being recommended for? I think that’s a really nice addition to that practice.
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And sometimes they do say, Josen recommended you and it’s like, oh gosh, okay. So how you lay that out is important.
Cathy Hannabach: Yeah. I’d be curious to hear how you’ve experienced changes in the peer review structure beyond just obviously challenges.
00:23:52:03 – 00:24:14:07
Cathy Hannabach: We talked about some of those, but scholarly publishing more broadly, certainly higher education more broadly, and peer review more specifically have undergone some pretty enormous changes in the past three to five years, even pre-COVID. Obviously, we’re still dealing with the fallout of some of those changes.
00:24:14:07 – 00:24:44:10
Cathy Hannabach: So, in addition to some of these challenges, or separately from them, what are some of those big changes in peer review that you’ve seen in your various roles in the process?
Josen Masangkay Diaz: All right, I can start. So, I think just like you said, Cathy, some of the challenges in peer review are more broadly related to the structures of labor at the university: fewer jobs, more contingency, fewer people willing to take on work with fewer perceived benefits.
00:24:44:10 – 00:25:07:08
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So, I you know, in the last 3 to 5 years, these conditions have only intensified. But I think, and I think maybe all of you have pointed this out in one way or another, I also think that the pandemic has shifted the ways a lot of people not just do work but think about work. And it’s important to take that into account when reviewing.
00:25:07:10 – 00:25:34:14
Josen Masangkay Diaz: As all of us know, the pandemic didn’t create inequity. It aggravated it and brought it into clear focus in a lot of places. So just as an example, I had to review a re-appointment file and the colleague was really clear, and the rank and tenure committee did say to put this put this in their file, but was really clear about the ways that the pandemic shifted productivity for them.
00:25:34:14 – 00:26:02:08
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And it was really important for me and others to take that into account, to evaluate accordingly. But this was a challenge because it’s not to think about their work as less than what they might have otherwise done if we weren’t in a global pandemic but to ask how their work is actually helping us rethink our relationships, to work, to the university, and to each other during the global pandemic.
00:26:02:08 – 00:26:31:01
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So more than just being like, well, this is a lesser version of what they would have done, and we should be kind, this is actually how they were engaging it and how I was reading it was what are they actually helping us revisit and what are they helping us rethink? And how is that file doing that for us rather than it being a lack or absence?
00:26:31:03 – 00:27:00:20
Dolores Inés Casillas: While I think that peer review has changed a lot, I think my clearest sign that there is some kind of serious shortage and crises is when I received the same manuscript from three different presses and was shocked by that.
I had to tell the second press, I tell the third press that I’ve already reviewed this, and they had different ethics behind that as well.
00:27:00:20 – 00:27:22:16
Dolores Inés Casillas: I should say the second press actually didn’t mind and were still interested in the feedback. The third press was like, absolutely not, that’s very unethical, and I’m happy to give you your hundred-dollar book credit anyway, or something like that.
But that’s when I thought, wow, what a shortage that I’ve been asked within the span of six weeks by three different presses.
00:27:22:18 – 00:27:52:02
Dolores Inés Casillas: Years ago, people wouldn’t have sent it to three different presses. There’s a climate where we’re unsure about one press, and so we feel, which is also this institutional crunch. So now it’s okay to send it out to several presses at the same time. Whereas I think years ago you developed a relationship. If there was a little bit more time in the acquisition type of relationship before things were formally submitted.
00:27:52:02 – 00:28:17:12
Dolores Inés Casillas: And I think that sense of relationship has just become much more difficult to manage. So that was a clear sign, I thought, that things had changed.
And then, we don’t get full manuscripts. I think this is something that I’ve kind of enjoyed from book presses, I’ve enjoyed getting a book proposal and a couple of chapters or a proposal and three chapters.
00:28:17:14 – 00:28:45:24
Dolores Inés Casillas: There’s something about feeling that you’re giving feedback at a time when it is still growing rather than critiquing. It feels more of a critique when it’s already said and done rather than I’m being your peer, and this is just my $0.02 as you keep building and growing this argument.
00:28:46:01 – 00:29:21:21
April D.J. Petillo: I think too in the three to five years, mmm, this is maybe about six years ago, I remember that before I had a number of things as an author, as a scholar, out in the world and my supervisor at that time was doing the you must get things out there, you must get things out there thing. And then in a side comment to someone else that same day I heard her say, I never do peer review, I refuse to do peer review.
00:29:22:00 – 00:30:09:08
April D.J. Petillo: I don’t have time for that. And when I think about some of the changes in peer review, I’m now hearing more people who are more senior scholars who are actually expressing an interest in doing peer review and for all the reasons you two have already listed, like finding people to actually do that is sometimes a challenge.
It’s also this real crunch place because as someone who has been on search committees reading some of the applications from people who are coming out of graduate school with a book proposal.
00:30:10:07 – 00:30:58:09
April D.J. Petillo: And knowing that some of my more senior colleagues are like, I didn’t publish a book until I was going up for tenure not applying.
So, I think many of us are caught in the middle in between these expectations. And I think it comes from a sense of desperation almost, of you have to go above and beyond and keep going above and beyond to just be recognized as a valuable resource and scholar that a university or a publisher or a journal should invest in, like invest in your potential, which also puts the crunch on there.
00:30:58:09 – 00:31:34:06
April D.J. Petillo: There have to be ways to encourage support more people engaging in that sort of what I see as a mentorship role through peer review. So, is that a change or a challenge? I’m not 100% sure, but I do think there’s the shifting that happens, a push and pull between what the, for lack of a better way to put it, the sector that we’re in wants.
00:31:34:08 – 00:32:26:11
April D.J. Petillo: But what is wanted is not always feasible and possible. And I’m hoping that what I’m seeing is a sort of sea change to recognizing that, be it in annual reviews giving some kind of credit for engaging in peer review. Making it worth people’s while additionally to do that. But also, as has been said before, generosity and care around engaging in the process and a purposeful, intentional push toward trying to amplify the voices of those who are often erased or marginalized.
00:32:26:13 – 00:32:46:20
April D.J. Petillo: So, I’m hopeful. It’s not here yet, but I’m hopeful.
Cathy Hannabach: I think it’s a good example about how this is an ongoing practice. This is an ongoing set of, forms of labor. I hope no one arrived here today hoping there would be a single answer and you can copy it down and go home and fix it.
00:32:46:22 – 00:33:25:16
Cathy Hannabach: I would love for that to be the case! But that’s not usually how structural problems tend to get solved. And I would certainly argue that this is very much a structural problem.
But given that, I’m curious to hear specific recommendations that you have, and we’ve talked about some of them, if you have additional ones.
In a dream world, if you got to run everything, what recommendations would you have for how academic publishing more broadly, maybe higher education more broadly, can build a more sustainable peer review system?
00:33:25:18 – 00:34:13:23
April D.J. Petillo: I want to amplify something that was said before in terms of moving from peer review as critique to engaging in a collaborative way and thinking from a generous space.
The issues that are going on with peer review are also a part of the academy. And I think the change here also needs to happen with a change in how we think about the role of the academy and ways that we might pull away from having to be the first.
00:34:13:24 – 00:35:14:23
April D.J. Petillo: Innovation isn’t always the first time someone has thought of it. Sometimes innovation happens when, like Josen has said, you go back and look at what has gone on before but from a different perspective from the here and now or the slightly more recently than the original.
I would recommend that we encourage that, that we engage that process of thinking about how are we defining innovation, how does that set up practices that are based on a supremacist logic and how might we then actively, as part of our practice, counter that in the feedback we give, whether it be to reject an opportunity to review or embrace it.
00:35:14:23 – 00:35:55:09
Dolores Inés Casillas: There are ways that we can do that that are more about a collaborative sense of care. There’s a small journal that I really have always admired there, and they outwardly call themselves a very feminist editorial process. It’s a small journal, it’s called MALCS. It stands for Mujeres Activas en Letres y Cambio Social, so Women Active in Academics and Social Change. They host an institute every July and it’s about three or four days.
00:35:55:14 – 00:36:27:03
Dolores Inés Casillas: People submit a draft beforehand and they actively rewrite, present, and share each other’s ideas with the editors there. So, they have kind of this intense experience and then it sets themselves up to submit it to the journal.
That just seems like such a great collaborative process of growth for sure. I’ve always have really admired that process as well.
00:36:27:05 – 00:36:49:24
Dolores Inés Casillas: I’ve also been thinking of peer review as just feedback. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of how are we socialized to give feedback and I think it’s like when your friend wants you to double check this text, if this text sounds mean or if it doesn’t sound right. I’m thinking of it in terms of these building blocks.
00:36:50:06 – 00:37:24:01
Dolores Inés Casillas: I was thinking about that yesterday. My son emailed his high school teacher—and he’s a freshman—and basically contested a grade. And the way of trying to frame that, like be respectful: Is there any chance, if not, I understand. Thank you. All those types of framing.
It just reminded me that, wow, he’s 14, but I’m teaching him right now how to communicate with somebody who has a lot of power.
00:37:24:03 – 00:37:47:20
Dolores Inés Casillas: She might dismiss your email, or she might not. And thinking about I hope that we always collaborate on these emails, right? Until one day he doesn’t need my collaboration anymore. He can kind of advocate himself in that sense.
But I think feedback we need to think of better how it begins there. When a friend double checks your text or double checks an email.
00:37:47:22 – 00:38:16:16
Dolores Inés Casillas: And that’s the building block. We’re always careful about that tenor and not that cadence but that tenor and how you’re communicating it and maybe trying to carry that same sense of ethics when we give feedback.
Josen Masangkay Diaz: I just want to cosign on what I think you point out and emphasize the work that that takes is such meaningful and important work.
00:38:16:18 – 00:38:34:24
Josen Masangkay Diaz: The best reviews I’ve gotten as an author have felt like conversations rather than feedback but also conversations between someone who also is really invested in the things that I’m talking about and that that has meant so much. And I don’t know if I’m being a little bit naive, but it makes it better.
00:38:34:24 – 00:39:04:16
Josen Masangkay Diaz: It feels like I’m part of something bigger than just the article. So, there’s that. I think this has already been said, but having reviews become part of research requirements because I’m still learning how to review but they feel like reading practices. They feel like really important reading practices to be able to do because I’ve also gotten great reviews and I’m like, I can’t believe that you’ve seen that.
00:39:04:16 – 00:39:33:23
Josen Masangkay Diaz: You see that in the work as well. And that’s an important intellectual practice, community practice, that feels like it’s not evaluated as heavily in rank and tenure files.
I think April mentioned this already, but one of the best review parameters that I got was when I was reviewing was I had questions that felt so generative when I was reviewing, like look for these kinds of questions.
00:39:33:23 – 00:39:53:20
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And then they, you know, the journal to share that with the, with the reviewers. And I was like, this is actually really helpful for those of us who are a little bit newer to review, for example. So, and those kinds of questions help to shift how people are thinking about review, as I was pointing out, as feedback rather than actually as a scathing critique, which I’ve also gotten as well.
00:39:53:20 – 00:40:17:20
Josen Masangkay Diaz: So, some of those questions are what can I put down here to encourage collective thinking rather than individualized brilliance? Paying attention to the citation practices and things like that, how the authors—and I had already pointed this out—how authors push well-worn boundaries, which is recognizing interdisciplinarity rather than policing disciplinary boundaries.
00:40:17:20 – 00:40:43:15
Josen Masangkay Diaz: I’ve certainly gotten reviews that are like, why aren’t you a historian? I’m like, because I’m just not. So those kinds of reviews are hard. And then asking reviewers whether a project encourages dialog, which is thinking about its future with people. I think sometimes in terms of review, it might not be there yet, but the potential is so there.
00:40:43:15 – 00:41:12:23
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And I think that’s such an incredible thing to be able to recognize and then to imagine its circulation and its life outside, which is cool.
Cathy Hannabach: Yeah, I would love to see reviewing quote unquote count more in hiring and promotion. This is part of a broader conversation about how service is valued, or not valued as the case is usually, on campuses.
00:41:14:10 – 00:41:38:20
Cathy Hannabach: I think that’s important both just in terms of this is something that people spend a lot of time on, and it deserves to be recognized in the same way that research and teaching does. But it’s also because that labor maps on to bodies in really specific ways. The folks that end up doing way more service, including reviewing, tend to be more marginalized.
00:41:38:20 – 00:42:03:22
Cathy Hannabach: And that’s when that is the standard, when those kinds of practices are not valued by an institution and by an industry more broadly, I would say that shapes which types of people and which types of bodies and which types of communities and which types of worldviews get to count as scholarship and get to count as professors and get to count as leaders.
00:42:03:22 – 00:42:32:07
Cathy Hannabach: So, I think this is part of a broader shift that needs to happen in terms of academic labor, in terms of scholarly labor, and valuing all of that. So, I would certainly like to see all of these things implemented as well. So—
Dolores Inés Casillas: I think—
Cathy Hannabach: Yeah, go ahead.
Dolores Inés Casillas: I was just going to say I feel like I try to do that in personnel reviews.
00:42:32:09 – 00:42:58:02
Dolores Inés Casillas: Really, it’s fascinating what they’ll send you as a file in terms of this is we’re telling you what to look at in the scholar. And often the service they’re reviewing any editorial type of work That’s all not highlighted right in their formal assessment. And I try to dedicate a paragraph to look at what this person has contributed to building the field.
00:42:58:05 – 00:43:26:14
Dolores Inés Casillas: Look what they’ve done at your university in all these different capacities. I was encouraged by another professor to do that. We should be highlighting that in formal letters. And she even goes an extra step and writes you are fortunate to have this person because they’ve done X, Y, and Z.
So that was a really good, really good conversation I had with her and there is a clue as to I don’t have to just review what they sent me.
00:43:27:01 – 00:44:00:08
Dolores Inés Casillas: If I know something else about that person or look at the last few pages to really take advantage of that letter to highlight that.
April D.J. Petillo: Sorry, Cathy, I just want to quickly add that I think that is really powerful and thank you and the person that you were talking to for doing that. I also want to encourage people as they write their own reviews, as they do the self-eval, to own that.
00:44:00:13 – 00:44:40:18
April D.J. Petillo: You know, I engage in review, this is how many hours of work that is, and this is my contribution to the field and to the academy because scholars are not just built in the classroom. They’re built in these feedback loops. And without that, we will not have as many.
Cathy Hannabach: One of the one of the questions that that has been submitted, which is something that I was hoping we get to talk about, is this question of anonymized reviews and different models for anonymization.
00:44:40:20 – 00:45:10:00
Cathy Hannabach: So obviously we have double anonymous…double double, I cannot talk today. Good that I’m leading a webinar! Double anonymous reviews where neither the reviewer nor the author knows each other, knows who is doing what on the other side. The journal editor or managing editor, depending on how that label is distributed, they might know. You have single anonymous reviews, where one side knows the other person but not vice versa.
00:45:10:02 – 00:45:47:19
Cathy Hannabach: And then you have fully open reviews, where everyone knows everybody who’s involved in the whole thing. I’m curious what you all think about multiple forms of anonymization and if you have thoughts on how you want to approach that.
April D.J. Petillo: So, I’ll go first. We use a double blind process and I feel like it has worked well for us.
00:45:47:19 – 00:46:31:00
April D.J. Petillo: I feel like part of the reason why is because we have feminist in our title. So, there is larger conversation among the community that recognizes itself as feminist or an offshoot of feminist ideals around a particular attention to both rigorous but also collaborative work. Not everybody, but most people.
00:46:31:00 – 00:47:19:22
April D.J. Petillo: One of the things that we do, too, is because personally, this is not the journal, but just personally, I do believe sometimes it’s easy to hide behind an anonymous response. You can just get all your frustration out on this person who had nothing to do with that frustration.
So, part of how we encourage accountability is we keep it anonymized. But once a paper, a manuscript, has gone through review, if it has been accepted, we share that feedback with all the reviewers.
We also give some highlights of what those reviews look like so people can have a sense as a reviewer of where they fall within spectrum.
00:47:19:24 – 00:47:52:22
April D.J. Petillo: We don’t share names in that process, but there have been times when reviewers have come back and said, oh, I think I was really harsh. Maybe I didn’t need to be harsh in that way. And this isn’t meant as a slap on the wrist, but it is an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve put out there in terms of building community and a particular level of accountability within that.
00:47:52:24 – 00:48:44:23
April D.J. Petillo: In my mind, I would prefer if people knew. I think in some ways it can keep people honest. I recognize it can create other issues and imbalances of power that are problematic. But I don’t think any of the processes are without problems.
Josen Masangkay Diaz: I would agree with that. I’m reminded of a meeting I had that was a, for lack of a better word, a norming process, where there was one reviewer who realized that he was unfairly harsh, more so than I think anyone else had.
00:48:45:01 – 00:49:07:03
Josen Masangkay Diaz: Unfortunately, it didn’t get him to change that, but it allowed us to actually have a conversation about the kinds of reviews that were actually going on. So, I think that was incredibly helpful.
I’m also someone who believes in less anonymity. And like April pointed out, I think there are very distinct problems associated with it, but I see them sometimes as book reviews.
00:49:07:04 – 00:49:31:05
Josen Masangkay Diaz: Seeing what people thought and how people imagine that has been helpful to me. And in the best case scenarios, they do become part of that broader conversation that I was talking about. Sometimes they’re not, but they do help, I think, a kind of collective worldbuilding around a work.
00:49:31:13 – 00:50:02:10
Dolores Inés Casillas: I try to give reviews assuming that they’re going to know who it is, but it’s just the assumption. One of the first reviews I did my second or third year as a professor was for a major journal. I loved the topic. I thought, oh my goodness, why didn’t I think of this topic? This is so good. I loved reading that. But it was apparent that it was coauthored, and I got the sense that maybe it was a graduate student and a professor who had done that.
00:50:02:12 – 00:50:31:13
Dolores Inés Casillas: And I got the sense and I had actually I had I had written this or said, to be honest, I’m guessing that this is a collaboration between the professor and the graduate and a graduate student, and it might be more helpful if there is a little bit more of a tightening of the argument, kind of saying it looks like the graduate student did a lot of the work kind of right where there should be a little bit more mentorship to make it a little tighter.
00:50:31:15 – 00:51:00:19
Dolores Inés Casillas: I then got an email from the main journal editor saying, we’re going to move forward with this revise and resubmit. They resubmitted it. It was beautifully polished. I teach it still to this day. The main editor said the authors would like to know your name before it goes to print. And I was so nervous because they told me their name and they’re a very senior person in my field and I said I didn’t feel comfortable.
00:51:00:19 – 00:51:26:09
Dolores Inés Casillas: It felt like such a vulnerable position. And then they circled back two months later, they’re asking again for your name. And then the editor said, they just want to thank you by name in the article. And I didn’t know that! I thought they were going to…I’m going to have to put them on my do not ever review list, you know that list. Like now I’m growing that list already, I’ve only been in this gig for two years.
00:51:26:11 – 00:51:54:00
Dolores Inés Casillas: I was just so nervous about that. So ever since then I decided I should just write as if everyone is going to know who you are because that was such undue stress for six months of that. So that’s up to this point.
Josen Masangkay Diaz: I like to write reviews knowing that even if it does remain anonymous, that if somebody does find out, I can stick by it.
00:51:54:02 – 00:52:13:19
Josen Masangkay Diaz: That there’s nothing that I have to hide behind, that there is always that act of generosity, that I would hope that people who do find out, that wouldn’t be a problem.
I’m realizing I didn’t realize that until you actually named it, that that is something that I try to do is always write with the idea that people would find out.
00:52:13:19 – 00:52:45:12
Josen Masangkay Diaz: And I can stick by the review.
April D.J. Petillo: Yeah. And I’ve been that person who thankfully had reviewers who saw the argument that I was saying but they also pointed me in a direction that was chef’s kiss to making that work and I thanked them in the first footnote because it was a stroke of brilliance.
00:52:45:12 – 00:53:16:16
April D.J. Petillo: I was so focused on my path that that didn’t occur. And those are wonderful moments that we miss if we are strict in the anonymized process. Those thank you’s are important.
Cathy Hannabach: So, one of the other questions that folks have submitted is this question of payment. And I know this is a hotly debated topic. Should reviewers be paid and if so, how much and in what way?
00:53:16:18 – 00:53:53:13
Cathy Hannabach: What do you all think?
April D.J. Petillo: I ought to tell you, I would love to pay reviewers. I don’t know of many academic journals that are in the position to give much in terms of an honorarium right now, but I know of several that would love to be able to pay reviewers.
I’ve also heard about the option to offer letters of thank you to reviewers that they can put in their file if they’re working in the academy.
00:53:53:15 – 00:54:38:11
April D.J. Petillo: Some places have a page of thank you’s that is published once a year with everyone who’s done a review. Those are awesome options, but that’s for a journal. When I think about things like grant reviewers or personnel file reviewers that can get a little more complicated.
That said, I stand behind that there are ways that it would be really nice to acknowledge publicly this was a hard thing to put together or this was a tough year for me personally.
00:54:38:11 – 00:55:15:04
April D.J. Petillo: And as a reviewer, you saw not just what I did but my potential and the circumstances and read through all of that with grace. I think of it as not just a skill but also a calling. So, I would love to have a way to thank all the reviewers. I just don’t know the way that works for everyone.
00:55:15:06 – 00:55:54:07
Josen Masangkay Diaz: I agree with April. I think that would be wonderful. I know that some journals will and presses will offer compensation in different ways, even if it’s not paid in dollar amounts. So that is something that I’ve always thought about and surely will certainly attract more reviewers.
I wonder, too, about the smaller journals, I just wonder about the capacity for certain journals and for presses to be able to do that and whether it would intensify or aggravate already existing kinds of inequities.
00:55:54:07 – 00:56:22:21
Josen Masangkay Diaz: But it I don’t think that throwing it out the window as no compensation is something that I’ve thought of as the solution. I do think compensation is something that would get around a lot of issues. I’m not exactly sure the details of what that would look like.
Dolores Inés Casillas: Yeah, I haven’t thought about that either as well.
00:56:23:02 – 00:56:50:00
Dolores Inés Casillas: I’ve also for the past two or three reviews not positioned my reviewing work as service and I’m actually positioning that as diversity because of the decisions I’m making. I always make the argument that my job as a reviewer, because of the scholarship I choose and the scholars I choose, this is the work I’m doing to change the academy.
00:56:50:02 – 00:57:28:18
Dolores Inés Casillas: It’s not service. I’m trying to frame it in that way as well because I think service has also been framed and has different connotations. In that sense, I think it changes a little bit about how I position it, and I’m hoping that changes larger personnel review committees at the university. Also, the feedback that I’ve gotten is that they do understand what I’m saying, and I feel that they take that into stronger consideration for me as a scholar than they would if it was just service.
00:57:28:20 – 00:57:51:22
Dolores Inés Casillas: So that’s my mantra. If you’d leave with anything, I would try to pitch it and frame it as something bigger than service because I really do think there’s so many things that you have to write and then, Cathy talks about this, you edit. You do all of that to try to change the way people think about the world,.
00:57:51:22 – 00:58:24:04
Dolores Inés Casillas: And I think that looking at our role as peer editors and peer reviewers is part of that.
Cathy Hannabach: I think that is a fantastic place to end, which is very convenient because we are coming right up on time here. I want to thank you all for being here and joining us in this discussion.
A big thanks to Sara as well for being technical support and to our amazing speakers for sharing all of these fantastic ways that they are creating different models for peer review.
00:58:24:14 – 00:58:46:17
Cathy Hannabach: I want to let everybody know to be on the lookout for an email from me at Ideas on Fire with a link to the recording and the transcript. They’ll be full captions. I know there were some technical problems with the captions the beginning of this that will be fixed in the video.
There will also be some resources to help you navigate peer review and hopefully build some more sustainable futures for scholarly publishing.
00:58:46:19 – 00:58:52:18
Cathy Hannabach: Take care, everybody.
April D.J. Petillo: Thank you for making this space.
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Peer review and evaluation are at the heart of academia but so often the racially gendered labor of this work is ignored, denied, or compounded.
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Join us for a panel discussion with 4 interdisciplinary feminist scholars about how they are navigating peer review in our contemporary moment and collectively building intersectional feminist futures to support engaged research and critical thinking.
Josen Masangkay Diaz is an associate professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of San Diego.
Her research and teaching focus on questions of race, gender, and subjectivity as they relate to histories of colonialism, liberalism, and authoritarianism.
Her book Postcolonial Configurations: Dictatorship, the Racial Cold War, and Filipino America (Duke University Press, 2023), analyzes the formation of Filipino American subjectivity within US–Philippine Cold War politics.
April D. J. Petillo is an assistant professor of public sociology at Northern Arizona University whose research and community work foreground a “tribal feminist critical race theory informed by anti-settler colonialist sentiments.”
Her work is inspired by community social justice, and she is passionate about creating student-centered learning environments focused on real-life applicability. She specializes in Native American/Indigenous studies, comparative/critical ethnic studies, gender and sexuality studies, law and policy, critical trafficking studies and queer theories.
She is the co-editor with Heather R. Hlavaka of Researching Gender-Based Violence: Embodied and Intersectional Approaches (NYU Press, 2022) .
She is also co-editor of Feminist Anthropology, a ground-breaking interdisciplinary journal that brings to both anthropology and scholarly publishing more broadly a fierce commitment to gender equity, inclusion, and radical possibility.
Dolores Inés Casillas is a professor of Chicana and Chicano studies and director of the Chicano Studies Institute (CSI) at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her research focuses on immigrant engagement with US Spanish-language and bilingual media, the representation of accented Spanish and English languages within popular culture, and the integration of ethnic studies within K–12 schools.
She is the author of Sounds of Belonging: US Spanish-language Radio and Public Advocacy (NYU Press, 2014), co-editor with María Elena Cepeda of the Companion to Latina/o Media Studies (Routledge Press, 2016); and co-editor with Mary Bucholtz and Jin Sook Lee of Feeling It: Language, Race and Affect in Latinx Youth Learning (Routledge, 2018).
She is also a co-convener for the Latinx Sound Cultures Research group for the Crossing Latinidades Humanities Initiative and director of the Spanish and Bilingual Radio Caucus for the Radio Preservation Task Force hosted by the Library of Congress.
Cathy Hannabach is the founder and CEO of Ideas on Fire, where she helps interdisciplinary academics write and publish awesome texts, enliven public conversations, and create more just worlds. Passionate about interdisciplinary indexing and editing, she leads a transnational team helping scholars make an impact.
She hosts Imagine Otherwise, highlighting those bridging art, activism, and academia in the service of social justice.
Author of Blood Cultures: Medicine, Media, and Militarisms and Book Marketing for Academics (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), her research and commentary appears in outlets including Social Text: Periscope, Studies in Gender and Sexuality, Cultural Politics, New Learning Times, the BBC, Women and Performance, Contra*, and Dismantle Magazine.