The ‘Black Box’ of Peer Review

“Countless decisions in academe are based on the quest for excellence. Which professors to hire and promote. Which grants to fund. Which projects to pursue. Everyone wants to promote excellence. But what if academe actually doesn’t know what excellence is? Michèle Lamont decided to explore excellence by studying one of the primary mechanisms used by higher education to – in theory – reward excellence: scholarly peer review. Applying sociological and other disciplinary approaches to her study, Lamont won the right to observe peer review panels that are normally closed to all outsiders. And she was able to interview peer review panelists before and after their meetings, examine notes of reviewers before and after decision-making meetings, and gain access to information on the outcomes of these decisions. The result is How Professors Think: Inside the Curious World of Academic Judgment (Harvard University Press), which aims to expose what goes on behind the closed doors where funds are allocated and careers can be made …” (more)

[Scott Jaschik, Inside Higher Ed, 4 March]

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