Peer reviewers work in two stages. They blind read and rank submissions and offer a short write-up to explain their rankings. After the submissions are finalized by the Lead Editor and Managing Editor, they then reach out to peer reviewers and match them with an article or two to review closely and offer editorial comments on. Peer reviewers are given $100 stipends for their time. We highly encouraged Indigenous peer reviewers to apply.
Who are peer reviewers? Anyone who is a “peer.” We do not categorize “peers” in the solely academic way (i.e. someone with a Ph.D. in a specific field) but instead value Indigenous peoples and their knowledge first. This can be anyone from a language keeper to youth on their tribe’s committee to someone who has a Ph.D. in Columbia River history, to someone who is a cultural resource officer.
Confluence’s Ethics of Editorial Support or Decolonizing “Peer Review”
Confluence recognizes that the idea of “peer review” is part of the Western academy, which as it has been shown time and again, is part of upholding imperial goals. While some of the articles (research intensive) in Voices of the River are technically categorized as “peer-reviewed” for the purpose of qualifying as an academic journal and for the benefit of authors that need, for multiple reasons, to have articles published that are peer-reviewed, we take a decolonial approach to the process and use different terminology to frame the volunteer’s ways of thinking.
The Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg scholar Leanne Simpson writes of “Aanjigone,” the Nishnaabe concept “that one needs to be very, very careful with making judgments and with the act of criticism. Aanjigone is a concept that promotes the framing of Nishnaabeg values and ethics in the positive.” This idea is what frames Simpson’s approach to writing and academia.
Simpson writes that:
“To me, this means that we must not spend all of our time interrogating and criticizing. We need to spend an enormous amount of energy recovering and rebuilding at this point. Critique and revelation cannot in and of themselves create the kinds of magnificent change our people are looking for…To me it means we need to be careful with our criticism. We should not blindly follow the academy’s love affair with criticism, ripping apart other Indigenous academics’ work-with whom we probably have more in common than virtually any other academics in the world. Instead, we should highlight the positive within each other’s work, and save our criticism for the forces that continually try to rip us apart.”
In this spirit, Confluence aims for the process of what is called “peer review” to be a positive one, aimed at helping the author improve the article and helping the editor make edits, rather than subject an author to many many rounds of revisions or act as a gate-keeping mechanism.
The purpose of “peer reviewers” as we define it serves two purposes:
One, to be another set of eyes, another reader. As a reader, the “peer reviewer” helps the editor make edits by providing feedback on what makes sense, what doesn’t, where they get confused, what really grabs their attention, etc.
Two, the “peer reviewer” is usually someone with some knowledge of the topic. Since the editor does not have knowledge in every topic that comes our way, having peers that have this knowledge is helpful.
We do not categorize “peers” in the traditional academic way (i.e. someone with a Ph.D. in a specific field) but instead value Indigenous peoples and their knowledge first. This can be anyone from a language keeper to youth on their tribe’s committee to someone who has a Ph.D. in Columbia River history, to someone who is a cultural resource officer.
This allows the “peers” to be helpful in knowing if the article appears to be missing a vital reference, or commenting on how a concept could be drawn out/explained more.
Other decolonial approaches to peer review:
Fast, Elizabeth, Rose E. Cameron, Anjali Helferty, and Patrick Lewis. 2016. “Indigenous Knowledges and a Relational Peer Review Process.” International Review of Qualitative Research 9 (4): 381-384