The value of critical appraisal

This week I am wrapping up my last evidence summary for the (open access) Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Journal. I'm feeling quite nostalgic about it. I joined the evidence summary team in mid-2012 and have completed two 2-year commitments. It's been a key writing activity for most of my pre-tenure time here at UL. It has also been a valuable and challenging experience that has forced me to publish more frequently than I thought was possible. Beyond the experience of gaining regular experience with the publishing process, writing these evidence summaries drastically improved my critical appraisal skills and my appreciation of the importance of post-publication review.

The peer review process is not perfect. We should not rely on pre-publication peer review as our sole control mechanism for producing a scholarly record with integrity. There are some things that become clearer over time. Sometimes, it just takes the right person at the right time to spot an error. Errors are not the thing we should fear in publishing, expecting perfection is. Frankly, the reward for post-publication peer review is greater than that for a pre-pub reviewer. At least I got credit for these summaries as publications, which helped tremendously in my case for tenure. Perhaps it is time to give pre-pub peer reviewers more credit for their work - see what Publons and F1000 are doing.

I will miss the opportunity to read and critically appraise literature that falls outside of my daily work. But I am considering writing more informal evidence summaries of the things I read for work simply because I find the process so useful. I also wonder sometimes how to extend these evidence summaries to support a more sustained conversation about our research processes and how data/evidence shapes our practice. I don't have an answer for this, particularly since some of this already happens in the context of specific conversations (like the #critlib and lisjournalclub discussions on Twitter). But the way in which these discussions feed back into practice is less apparent. 

As I move on to the next writing project, I am tremendously grateful for the excellent editorial guidance and peer review during my time on the EBLIP Journal team. Lori Kloda and Heather Pretty have been fantastic and generous editors!

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Updated Oct 07, 2016 by hcoates