Rethinking Peer Review: Expanding the Boundaries for Community-Engaged Scholarship

Sherril B. Gelmon, Cathy M. Jordan, Sarena D. Seifer


Peer review in the academic arena is the evaluation of a scholar or a scholarly work by peers— typically, qualified members of the scholar’s discipline or profession with similar or greater competence, expertise, or rank. Peer review serves as a mechanism of self-regulation within a field or an institution in order to assure quality and may be applied to a product of scholarship, to scholars and their bodies of work, or to programs and organizations. Special considerations arise when peer review is undertaken in the context of community-engaged scholarship (CES), since CES generally involves partners outside the academy, and the typical concerns of peer review (such as rigorous methods, participant risks and benefits, and significance of findings for the field) are complemented by equivalent and sometimes greater concerns for the quality of the engagement process, community- level ethical considerations, and benefit to the community. This article, authored by some of the founding members of the Working Group on Rethinking Peer Review, explores these issues and invites readers to contribute to this discussion by considering questions about the appropriateness of conventional peer review mechanisms and who should be considered “peers” in reviewing products of CES and the work of community-engaged scholars. The Working Group hopes others will initiate discussions within their own institutions, professional associations, journals, and other settings to debate the notion of peer review and determine if expanded concepts are feasible. Through these various activities, the authors hope to begin seeing changes in the peer review process that embrace community expertise and enhance the quality and impact of CES.


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