[Smt-talk] Peer Review Questions

Daniel Wolf djwolf at snafu.de
Thu Feb 23 04:17:06 PST 2012

Recently, commercial academic publishing has received considerable  
attention, with particular attention to the extravagant prices of many  
journals and the use of free (that is, to the publishers) labor, including  
a move to boycott one of the most prominent publishers (see here:  
); to my knowledge, music scholars have not taken much part in these  
discussions, although the online journal of the SMT is a very serious and  
positive step towards a resolution of many of the issues of concern.  
Perhaps this would be a useful topic for the future here.

In the past week I received three requests from three different music  
journals to review articles.  I recognize the added value of the peer  
review practice and I have reviewed articles in the past. I'll admit to  
being somewhat flattered to be recognized as a peer and I suppose I have  
the proper academic traveling papers to justify this, but I am a freelance  
composer and — as my wife pointed out — I receive no compensation for the  
time and labor spent reviewing an article, and this plays out in real  
terms for me as it's time lost forever without salary or contributions to  
my health care or pension.  I suppose these things look good on a resume,  
should I ever return to academe, but I doubt that it will carry the weight  
of my own creative and intellectual work.  I now wonder to what degree the  
service of peer-reviewing articles is actually expected of those employed  
in Colleges, Universities, and Conservatories and recognized in their  
hiring and promotions.  I was somewhat startled by the candor of one of  
the editors who explained that she had sought me out as a reviewer  
specifically because the stream of properly academics she had turned to in  
the past had reduced to a trickle, especially among those with tenure. Is  
this, in fact, the case?  If so, is farming out reviews to adjuncts and  
folk like me (who are not ever near a campus, let alone employed therein)  
a practice I ought to not only condone, but support materially?  And does  
this say anything about the actual added-value of peer review in music  

Daniel Wolf

Dr Daniel Wolf
Frankfurt am Main

djwolf at snafu.de

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