Making review transparent

22 July 2016 by Lisa Meloncon

In what follows I briefly describe the process that we took in reviewing proposals for the proposed volume The Rhetoric of Health and Medicine As/Is: Theories and Concepts for an Emerging Field. Since the editors (Scott Graham, Jenell Johnson, John Lynch, Cynthia Ryan, and me) come from across Communication Studies and English Studies (including tech comm and composition), we went into the project know that we would have to negotiate a lot to end up with a group of contributors and a structure that we all could get behind. Most of you know, it’s hard enough to get two academics to agree on something, much less five 🙂

Fortunately, we did know something about each other and had the opportunity to meet and discuss the vision of the volume as proposals were coming in. But, then a good thing happened. We received a lot of proposals, and we were in the position that the vast majority of them met the objectives of the call.

So that meant, we needed a process to review them as  fairly as possible. The process we ended up on was

  • ranking every proposal on both quality as a stand alone proposal and it’s adherence to the CFP
  • discussing  on the original scores and the establishment of tentative sections based on the proposals with the highest scores
  • re-ranking individually (that is each editor took another go at ranking) a large number of the top proposals again and then placing them into section categories
  • reviewing of all proposals again to determine if we missed a series of strong proposals around specific topics
  • placing consistently highly ranked proposals into the final section lists
  • deliberating on that list and making adjustments

At each stage of the process, every editor weighed in with a score and/or an opinion. I was the one who collated all the scores and information and redistributed it. Several parts of the process we made sure we deliberated alone so that all the perspectives could be heard and then a consensus formed. All in all we talked and sorted and ranked and talked some more for a month (takes into consideration time given for folks to do the work and then reconvene). The point here is that it wasn’t a process we took lightly nor one that was easy. The multi-stage process helped us to get a better vision of what the book could and should do, as well as gave us the opportunity to see proposals in different ways.

When it’s laid out like this, it seemed like an easy, fluid process, but I can assure there were lots of wrangling. It’s hard to take a large number of proposals that all have some merit and narrow those down to 13 selections that incorporated important multiple concepts and then also had some conversations between them. Having already discussed this project with a press, we consistently had their guidance and advice in mind as well. (For the younger scholars out there, it’s a tricky process this publishing with lots and lots of variables. All of which make the process for edited collections a little harder to do. IMO.)

We ended with authors from across the rhetoric of health and medicine to include communication, composition, writing studies, rhetoric, and technical and professional communication. We also run the gamut from graduate students to senior scholars in the field.

In the end, we landed on a volume that took our own CFP seriously and includes a series of concepts that are vital to understanding the emerging (or emerged) field of the rhetoric of health and medicine. And one that we feel can be used in our scholarship and our teaching.

If you have any questions about the process or (really anything), please feel free to get in touch with me.