#cck11 – Where Should We Find Knowledge Production: Disciplinary Peer Review or Networks of Practice.

Reviewed a recent article by Susu Nousala (2010) that I thought was related to cck11: Improving the peer review process: an examination of commonalities between scholarly societies and knowledge networks, (Electronic copy available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1762876)

Discussing general peer review systems the author ask:

(W)hat other ways may be used or incorporated to better serve emergent interdisciplinary and/or hybrid disciplines, creating a more holistic community based process to improve overall review outcomes.  . . . Over time the emperical approach to peer review has led critics to discribe the whole system as generally allowing conventional work to succed whilst discouraging innovative thinking.

I would add some things that I feel are not specifically addressed in the article:

One, for scholars interested in research on practice, the peer review process tends to be organized by disciplinary interests for people who are intending on advancing within a disciplinary hierarchy.  Research on practice tends to be a primary location for interdisciplinary – hybrid research, while peer review often subjects research to disciplinary requirement that are not about furthering practice.  My basic point is that furthering practice is not the same as furthering disciplinary knowledge.  This is a potential place where innovation in interdisciplinary research is hampered. Disciplinary requirements can do as much to hurt knowledge development as it can to encourage it.  As pointed out by Wenger (1998 and Nousala, Organizations are made up of many overlapping communities of practice.  There is a case to be made that these communities are the natural place for knowledge development and the negotiation of peer meaning; not disciplinary organizations.

Secondly, the peer review process is about individuals reviewing others individual efforts that exist in a finished form.  Since knowledge can be seen as existing and developing within communities of practice, you can see that it is the community as a network where ideas combine and meaning is negotiated.  Peer reviewing individual papers at best obscures this knowledge creation process.  At the worst, it discourages the dialogue that is needed and necessary to negotiate and synthesize new forms of knowledge and practice, thereby needlessly restricting knowledge development.  The authors state;

In more recent times “peer review has become a powerful social system” [9] which has multiple layers of knowledge networks linking and supporting its members within these communities of practice.

In my mind, peer review processes do not acknowledge most knowledge networks and are restrictive in that the first requirement of knowledge is acknowledgment.  Acknowledgement should be a community or network process, not the pervayence of a few individuals.


The authors conclude;

Without the foundation of sustainable practice and processes, the build up of the internal knowledge networks will not occur. Instead, there will only be information systems and management, which do not function in the same way and can not take the place of tacit knowledge networks.

In my view, at least a portion of the peer review process should occur within network processes.  Supported by the development of Open Educational Resource and student personal learning environments, learning is becoming network centric.  It is time to acknowledge that knowledge production is also network centric and it is time to move scholarly activity into open network processes.  This would acknowledge the importance of networks in knowledge development, enable the integration of digital networks to improve productivity in knowledge production, enable practitioner communities to participate in scholarly processes and would align scholarly processes with current theories of learning.