Why Peer Review is Important

Peer review is essential to the university press mission of advancing and disseminating scholarship. It is the process through which university press editors commission formal evaluations from 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 ideally provides balanced 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. By facilitating the review process, university press editors enlist the expertise of a wide community to create productive engagement between reviewers and the authors whose work they are asked to evaluate. Given the essential role that university presses play in shaping scholarly conversations and knowledge production, it is vital for acquisitions editors (AEs) to prioritize equity, justice, and inclusion in the peer review process.

As a principal university press advocate, the Association of University Presses (AUPresses) actively supports the essential role that peer review plays in developing and validating high-quality scholarly publications. This is reflected in the Association’s membership eligibility requirements, which require member presses to detail their peer review processes.

The purpose of this document, written by the AUPresses Acquisitions Editorial Committee, is to articulate a set of suggested best practices that constitute a rigorous and equitable process of peer review. The Committee acknowledges, however, that the peer review process is complex, highly individual, and must be responsive to the norms of the appropriate fields and the nuances of each project. 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, although strong peer reviews are necessary for moving forward with a project, they are only one among a broad range of factors that together lead to a publishing decision.