August 19, 2011
Do Systems Establishing Quasi-Peer Review of Articles Submitted to Student-Edited Law Journals Make Sense?
Recently Chicago made a provisional decision to join the ranks of law reviews like Harvard, Yale and Stanford by establishing a quasi-peer review system for article submissions. In Chicago Law Review Chutzpah, Stephan Bainbridge, William D. Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law, writes
Either the student-edited format makes sense or it doesn't. The whole purpose of peer review is to get students OUT of the process, not to supplement a decision that would remain in the hands of second and third year law students. A pure peer review/edit system has several advantages. First, more informed and experienced decision makers should make better decisions. Second, one key function of peer review is to provide expert advice at a stage at which the authors can still tweak the paper. Hence, the advice should go directly from the reviewer to the author, rather than being mediated through students. Third, making the decision dependent on peer review provides a strong incentive for authors to heed the advice and to improve the paper. Giving students final say means the author is incented to make the students editors happy rather than the more knowledgeable reviewer. Finally, leaving the final decision in the hands of students means that the reviewer has less incentive to provide his/her best analysis, since his recommendations presumably will not be conclusive and may not even impact the final product. The proposed Chicago system being neither fish nor fowl, there is no reason to think it will combine the best attributes of peer and student journals.
For details about the Chicago form of peer review, see Bainbridge's post.
On PrawfsBlawg, Boston College law prof Brian Galle adds in Peer Review at Student-Edited Journals: Best Practices?:
For now, though, my impressions are that: 1. journals often disregard or weight lightly the advice they get from outside reviewers; 2. reviewer comments are not shared with authors; 3. authors cannot respond to reviewer comments; 4. reviewers are anonymous but free to reveal themselves; 5. reviewers don’t know author identity (except perhaps in the new case of Chicago, which does not use blind review). I think 1 & 2 are significant problems, 3 sucks but is probably hard to fix, 4 needs some tweaks and 5 seems a'ight.
What do you think? Is something like this better than nothing? [JH]