Why Peer Review is Important

Peer review is essential to the university press mission of advancing and disseminating scholarship. Peer review is the process through which university press editors commission formal evaluations from respected experts (“peers”) on the contribution to scholarship, teaching, and public debate of a work being considered for publication.  These formal evaluations are considered by press staff and shared and discussed with authors as a crucial prepublication step in an editor’s evaluation of the merits of proposed projects.  This process provides feedback that is both stringent and fair, enables an author to strengthen a work in progress, and adds value and meaning to the work that is ultimately published, helping inform the deliberations of press staff. By facilitating the review process, university press editors enlist the expertise of a wide community of experts to create productive conversations between reviewers and the authors whose work they are asked to evaluate.

As a principal university press advocate, the Association of American University Presses (AAUP) [now AUPresses] actively supports the essential role peer review plays in developing and validating high quality scholarly publications. This is reflected in the Association’s membership eligibility requirements, which require some form of peer review for projects published by member presses.

The purpose of this document, written by the [AUPresses] Acquisitions Editorial Committee, is to articulate a set of practices that comprise a rigorous process of peer review. The Committee acknowledges, however, that the peer review process is highly complex, involves many individuals, and must be responsive to the norms of the appropriate fields. Thus, while the steps discussed below are recognized as generally acceptable best practices, this document is not intended to prescribe the conduct of an acceptable peer review in every case. Moreover, though strong peer reviews are necessary for moving forward with a project, they form only one part of a broad range of factors, including considerations of fit and budget, that together lead to a publishing decision.