The week before last I was in Munich, at the Rezensieren – Kommentieren – Bloggen conference organised to celebrate the second anniversary of recensio.net, the online review platform for European History.
The IHR’s Reviews in History is a partner in this venture, and it was as deputy editor of this journal that I was invited to take place in a panel session to discuss the current state of online reviewing and commenting, and to speculate as to its future.
The panel (like the conference itself) was conducted solely in German, bar my own translated (and possibly therefore slightly random) intervention, and it was interesting that not just the language but the concerns of the participants and audience differed in some ways from those of British academics.
The keynote speaker on this topic, Dr Gudrun Gersmann, of Cologne University, predicted the demise of the traditional review. It was growing harder to find historians prepared to review, given other demands on their time, and in any case the new and preferable approach would be a crowdsourcing model, which would come to replace peer-reviewing by a couple of experts.
Other issues that were raised included those engendered by the sometimes more heirarchical German academic system, where a junior historian might feel loathe to be critical of a Professor’s work, or where to be seen as one of those ‘blogging types’ might be deleterious to one’s career. More familiar to British ears were the in-depth discussions as to how to secure funding to develop and maintain digital platforms such as recensio.
The debate was a deeply-engaged and at times heated one, and my schoolboy-German as a result might well have led to to some arguments escaping me! Fortunately full details can be in this round-up on the conference blog, and there are more comments here. A twitter round-up can be found by searching for #rkb13.