Public Access Peer Reviews for the Social Sciences is a forum for the discussion and improvement of unpublished manuscripts.

In each of the social science disciplines, acceptance for publication by a traditional journal is the final step in a long journey. Acceptance occurs at the conclusion of a process that can take years and that typically involves extensive private conversations between an author, an editor, and one or more anonymous reviewers. At best, these private conversations move a scholarly literature forward in an invisible forum. At worst, these conversations do very little to enhance the insight provided by an author’s initial submission. The author has little choice but persist in these conversations, however, because the editor and reviewers hold the power to grant the author a signal of the quality of the manuscript.

The goal of PAPRSS is to bring these conversations into the open, by serving as a moderated forum where authors may receive feedback from reviewers and interested readers can get a sense of an unpublished paper’s merits and limitations. It is akin to a print version of a conference session, where a discussant provides commentary on a paper in front of an open audience.

Should it work as intended, PAPRSS will assist authors in writing more persuasive manuscripts. It may also provide tenure review committees objective third-party information on the prospective quality and impact of scholarship that has not yet been accepted for publication. PAPRSS reviews for article-length manuscript are intended to be analogous to published reviews of book manuscripts, which are themselves often considered in the promotion and tenure process.

At least at initiation, PAPRSS will operate under the following rules:

  1. Public access required. To be reviewed on this site manuscripts must be available on the internet without a paywall. If a manuscript is accepted for publication and removal of non-paywalled links required by the publisher, links on this site will be updated to the paywalled journal site. Comments on published work will continue to be accepted.
  2. No anonymity. Conversations about papers will begin with the equivalent of a blog post about the paper. Reviewers will sign their reviews. Conversations may be extended by comments on the initial post, whether by the authors themselves or other readers who have their own takes. These comments will be moderated and signed by their authors. While the absence of anonymity may inhibit reviewers from discussing a paper as frankly as they might when granted anonymity, the incentive to provide commentary that improves the quality of the manuscript is if anything enhanced rather than diminished.
  3. All conflicts of interest declared. Any reviewer must state in the text of their review whether they have a personal or professional interest in the manuscript. A personal conflict of interest exists when a reviewer is commenting on a manuscript written by a former student, advisor, co-author, or colleague. A professional conflict of interest exists when a reviewer has received research or consulting funds in excess of $1,000 on topics related to the manuscript. Conflicts of interest do not disqualify a reviewer from commenting on a manuscript, but they must be declared to allow readers to exercise their independent judgment. Reviewers found to have violated this rule will be listed by name on this site and be subject to a lifetime ban.
  4. Right of response. Authors will have the opportunity to respond to either an initially posted review of their work or a comment thereon. Authors must abide by conflict-of-interest disclosure rules when responding.
  5. Commitment to constructive dialogue. While reviews may opine that manuscripts are subject to limitations over which the authors have no control, the goal of PAPRSS is to assist authors with improving their manuscripts, rather than list flaws without suggestions.
  6. No publication decisions. The only editorial function at PAPRSS will pertain to reviews. PAPRSS will not host manuscripts, and it will have no official capacity either to publish them or to declare them worthy of publication. Reviewers will have the option of applying “tags” to their reviews to signal that the manuscript under review should be of interest to particular readerships.
  7. Restricted eligibility to request review. The process by which PAPRSS reviews appear may evolve over time. Eligibility rules will be posted prominently on the site.

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