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Editors’ Choice: Reviewing is an Act of Leadership

[At Jeff McClurken’s invitation, I was recently part of a panel focused on reviewing digital history at Organization of American Historian’s annual meeting. My portion of the discussion was to focus on reviewing digital public history projects, which have their own particularities that make them different that some other genres of digital history. I welcomed the opportunity because I think that the work of review is one of the most important of an historian’s professional obligations. Below is a version of my comments.]

A generous and conscientious review process at a crucial stage can make the difference between a mediocre project and a great one. And, a careful review after a project launches can be an essential authorizing element for that work and the people who produced it.

The work of a reviewing is an act of leadership in the field—-in digital history, in academic history, in public history. As such, we would do well to consider the qualities that seek in effective leaders before we turn to the form and content of an effective review.

We seek out leaders

  • who prize collaboration and cooperation;
  • who have vision, but make room for other voices;
  • who honor many types of experience and expertise;
  • who acknowledge the important contributions of others;
  • who clearly admit that they do not have all the answers.

Individuals who embody these qualities often stand out as the people we turn to help us move our work forward. They are people we trust. I would submit, that these are also the people we want to review our work.

We can and should do our best to create a culture of reviewing that is humane and constructive. In that effort we might turn the groundbreaking work of the HuMetricsHSS Project to help structure our thinking. The project is working through a process to create and disseminate a “humane evaluation framework” that builds upon the values that participants have identified as central to humanities and social science disciplines, including collegiality, quality, equality, openness, and community.


Read the full post here.