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4 Questions with Seth Parsons

4 Questions with Seth Parsons

As the theme of this year’s Peer Review Week 2021 is “Identity in Peer Review”, we reached out to our client community and asked editors what they and others are doing to support this initiative.

Seth Parsons, co-senior editor of School University Partnerships, a journal of the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS,) shares what the organization has been doing in recent years to develop more diversity in the area peer review. 

Allen Press: Your organization has been working for five years to further diversity in its Peer Review practices. How did you originally start the conversation in your organization or editorial team?

Professor Parsons:  When we took over the editorship, one of our goals was to decrease the amount of time from submission to decision. Therefore, we set out to grow our editorial board to reduce the number of reviews required by each board member.

The National Association of Professional Development Schools, our journal’s association, is a diverse organization, and we wanted our editorial board to be representative of the association. Therefore, we began our tenure as editors with an explicit focus on furthering diversity in our editorial review board.

Allen Press:  What process or methods did you use to make the change?

Professor Parsons:  Most of our members attend the annual meeting, so we wanted to use that venue for recruiting members. We used part of the journal’s designated conference session to encourage members to sign up to be a reviewer, describing the role and passing around a signup sheet.

In addition, we had a booth at the conference where we distributed information about the journal and again had the signup sheet, which we actively encouraged members to volunteer as reviewers.

Allen Press:  What was your communication plan to let your authors, reviewers, readers, and community know about your plans?

Professor Parsons:  NAPDS has an organized communication structure, where the communication committee facilitates consistent communication with the membership through email. Our journal had a designated email each month, and it was in this association-wide communication vehicle that we alerted membership of our plans.

Allen Press: What advice would you give to an editorial team that wants to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive review process? 

Professor Parsons:  Take active steps to be more representative in your review board. We found that a personal touch was particularly helpful in encouraging people to sign up.

As we had conversations with members at the annual meeting, we would specifically ask individuals if they had ever considered reviewing for our journal. This question and the ensuing conversation typically led to the person volunteering.

Often people do not think they are needed or do not think they are qualified, and such a conversation can reassure people that they are needed and that they are qualified, thereby removing a self-imposed barrier to seeking out reviewing opportunities.

Dr. Parsons is a professor at George Mason University in the College of Education and Human Development. He is current president of the Association of Literacy Educators and Researchers (ALER) and is past president of the Greater Washington Reading Council (GWRC). He has received numerous awards for teaching excellence including being recognized in 2016 by George Mason University as a Teacher of Distinction.