“It’s Time to End the Publishing Gatekeeping!”: SO! stands with RaceB4Race

Sounding Out! stands with the RaceB4Race Executive Board and their recent public statement published via the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University regarding racism and the institutional structures of peer review in academia. Here is an excerpt of their clarion call for deep, systemic change but please read their entire statement here.

All academic journals and presses need to think about what structures are limiting access and hindering the full participation of scholars of color. After all, how academic journals structure their practices reflects their values. Here are a few outdated structures and systems that deserve to be interrogated:

  • Editorial boards: How diverse is the journal/press’s editorial board? How inclusive is the journal/press’s editorial structure? How are board members selected? Are the qualifications for serving on the board made public? Can people apply to serve on the board? Can people be nominated to serve on the board? Are board members used equally (i.e., do they all review the same amount of submissions)? Who determines when they are used, and what is the criteria for that decision? In other words, how can the journal/press ward against tokenistic practices?
  • Double-blind review: Who or what is the journal/press protecting in the process of review? Why are the reviewers’ identities concealed? Who does this benefit? Why? What might be gained if reviewers had to reveal their identities? Can reviewers see each other’s reviews? Are reviewers notified of the final outcome of the review? In other words, how can the journal/press create a more ethical and informed review process?
  • Evaluative criteria: How does the journal/press articulate for its reviewers the qualities of “strong” scholarship for emerging fields? What assumptions underlie the definitions in that respect? And what politics inform those assumptions? In other words, how can the journal/press actively promote paradigm shifts?

We know that an overwhelming majority enthusiastically supports the development of premodern critical race studies. We know first-hand that our colleagues want to engage with more resources, more insights, and more cutting-edge scholarship from our field in their own research and teaching. But the current editorial practices of most academic journals hinder the production of the intellectual resources that are needed now more than ever: the publishing gatekeeping is hurting us all. —“It’s Time to End the Publishing Gatekeeping!,” Letter from RaceB4Race Executive Board, 2020.

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