I still get asked occasionally. Actually, I was never asked when I was employed as a professor. Peer review is essential to the academic process. Although I hung my shingle at Nashotah House for a decade and a half, nobody was passing by. Now I get asked from time to time, to do some academic reviewing. As an editor I have to ask people to do this on a daily basis. It always bothers me when some privileged professor says, “I don’t do peer reviews; I’ve got my own writing to do.” Well, professor, if everyone felt that way you would never be published. We’ve got to pay our dues, no? Getting a Ph.D. doesn’t necessarily make you humble (although it should) or considerate. Although I’m hoping to move away from academic publishing to the more popular trade venue (believe me, I’m trying!), I know that holding a Ph.D. means I should review when I’m asked to.
Right now I’m reviewing a book manuscript that I really wish I could talk about here. Problem is, peer review is either a singly or doubly-blind process. The author doesn’t know who the reviewers are—that’s crucial. And sometimes the reviewer doesn’t know who the author is. Although this blog doesn’t get a big readership, it’d be just my luck that I’d be spouting off about some ideas I read and the author of said manuscript (I don’t know who it is, in this case) would happen upon my remarks. That means I have to make this post about the process rather than the content. Too bad too, because I’ve had a number of conversations about this very topic recently. Ah, but I must keep my fingers shut.
Peer review isn’t a foolproof process. I try to remind people frequently that nobody—and I mean nobody—has all the answers. As the Buddha reportedly said, “Don’t take my word for it, check it against your experience.” I used to tell my Rutgers students that same thing. Don’t take my word for it just because I’m standing in front of an auditorium full of students. Ask others. Ask yourself, does it make sense? And don’t believe anyone who claims to have all the answers. That doesn’t solve my dilemma, though, of wanting to tell the world about the hidden book I’m reading. It ties in so well with what I try to do on this blog. And, really, it’s an honor to be asked. Someone thinks I have knowledge worth sharing. Only I can’t talk about it.