Formative Peer Review

At its core, PPJ Formative Peer Review is a structured form of peer engagement rooted in trust and a shared commitment to improving the work through candid and collegial feedback. The review process is formative in a twofold sense: on the one hand, it is designed to shape the work so that it might more effectively enrich public life; on the other hand, it is designed to cultivate habits of responsiveness between the participants themselves. Because the review process is formative in this twofold sense, each participant must enter into it with a willingness to learn, to be transformed by the process itself.

Formative Peer Review is thus undertaken by colleagues in the specific sense associated with the Latin roots of that term - colléga, one chosen along with another, a partner in office, etc. The word combines the prefix, “col-,” together, and “legére,” to choose. In the context of the PPJ, what is chosen together is the shared attempt to develop and improve the scholarly artifact under consideration, be it a written article, a video documentary, a podcast, or another mode of scholarly expression. Together colleagues develop an inclusive, supportive space in which ideas are developed and refined collaboratively, and in a way that reflects the PPJ’s broader mission to integrate and cultivate these values in public life. Because the PPJ understands the practice of publishing, including the process of peer review, as a way of creating publics, our unique Formative Peer Review process is designed both to improve the work under consideration and to cultivate this thicker sense of collegiality. Lying at the heart of these publicly inflected publishing efforts, it is fashioned to create a culture of shared scholarly practice between a composer-nominated peer reviewer who is publicly engaged with the work addressed by the submission, the composer, and a complementary peer reviewer identified by the peer review coordinator in collaboration with the composer.

PPJ Public Philosophy Journal: Elements of Formative Peer Review.

Designed to nurture habits of trust, care, and respect in our scholarly interactions, and to make scholarly production accessible to the broader public.

Facilitated by a review coordinator who nurtures discussion, ensuring that it unfolds in a caring, collegial way.

Includes a composer-nominated reviewer who is publicly engaged with the issue at hand.

Asks composers for a brief community ethics statement that explains how the work engages and cites the arguments, experiences, and findings of individuals working within stakeholder communities.

Unfolds on an open, streamlined platform designed to guide review teams in rich and inclusive dialogue.

Asks review teams to consider the PPJ's primary style criteria:

Relevance: Does the work engage members of a particular
community about an issue of special concern to that community?

Accessibility: Does it invite
approachable conversations with a broad audience?

Intellectual Coherence: Does it employ concepts that advance and deepen understanding of
the issue?

Scholarly Dialogue: Does it participate in pertinent conversations within the academy and beyond?

Invites reviewers to compose a public holistic response for considered publication in the Journal.

Learn more:

Watch a brief video about Formative Peer Review:

Formative Peer Review Coordinators

Upon submitting their work, composers are asked to nominate a formative peer reviewer who is engaged with the issue of public concern addressed by the submission. To facilitate the review process, each submission is then assigned to a formative peer review coordinator whose first task is to identify a complementary reviewer.

Peer reviewers and composers are able to view and engage each other's comments in conversation during the review process. Coordinators play an active and vital role in that conversation, ensuring that it unfolds in a collegial and caring way. They stimulate ongoing dialogue between composers and peer reviewers by encouraging composers to respond more thoroughly to reviewer feedback, and encouraging reviewers to provide persistent support to composers as their works advance toward publication.

Like peer reviewers, coordinators are offered the opportunity at the end of the process to compose public holistic responses that may be published alongside the work itself.

Guidelines for Formative Peer Reviewers

Rather than orienting peer review toward evaluation and gatekeeping, our formative engagement approach asks all interlocutors to enter into dialogue with one another as colleagues committed to enriching the quality of the submission under consideration. Peer reviewers are asked to bring their best selves to the process and to respond to the work as they would to that of a friend whose success they seek to foster.

Composers are invited to submit content that speaks in a register that attends to the following style criteria: relevance, accessibility, intellectual coherence, and scholarly engagement. As the review process unfolds, we ask peer reviewers to consider these four criteria, even as they offer other considered advice about how to improve the submission under consideration. The PPJ defines the style criteria as follows:

Submissions have relevance when they are timely and responsive to an issue of public concern.

Submissions are accessible when they connect with the public at large and resonate with publicly engaged individuals and organizations. This may require unpacking technical terms and concepts.

Submissions demonstrate intellectual coherence by reasoning for and providing evidence to support claims, as well as by identifying theoretical concepts that amplify understanding of the public concern under consideration.

As examples of scholarly engagement, submissions are aware of and receptive to pertinent, ongoing dialogues within and beyond the academy, whether encountered in literature or other mediums of scholarly conversation.

The PPJ Way

Composing a Public Holistic Response

Formative Peer Review (FPR) invites reviewers to compose a public holistic response to be considered for publication in the Journal. After providing feedback on specific passages of a submission – the first part of review – reviewers are encouraged to draft a public holistic response in the box provided at the bottom of the review page. If the submission is accepted for publication, reviewers will be given opportunities to revise their responses.

This feature of FPR is vital to the PPJ mission. It aims to help nurture generosity and collegiality among composers and review teams; it encourages reflection on how the work engages or might further engage with stakeholder communities; it incentivizes post-publication discussions; and it gives formal recognition of the time and care that reviewers have invested in the work. The PPJ encourages hiring, tenure and promotion, and other committees to regard responses published in the Journal as valuable scholarly contributions in their own right.

A holistic response considers the sum of the aims, arguments, findings, and other key elements of the work under consideration, especially in relation to the PPJ’s criteria for how well a submission demonstrates publicly engaged scholarship: relevance, accessibility, intellectual coherence, and scholarly dialogue. Thus, reviewers are asked to pay particular attention to how the work

  • connects with members of the stakeholder community for whom the issue is of special concern;
  • invites approachable conversations with a broad audience;
  • engages concepts that deepen and advance understanding of the issue; and
  • participates in pertinent conversations within the academy and beyond.

While reviewers should respond honestly to the work, it is equally important that they respond cordially and constructively for an audience of the piece’s public. Responses that demonstrate the PPJ’s core values offer suggestions alongside any criticisms, helping to expand on the work's strengths, and pointing toward possibilities for continued conversation.  

As a general rule, reviewers should aim to compose approximately 250 to 450 words. For examples, explore publications in the Journal, such as the responses to “Practicing Public Scholarship” by PPJ Editor-in-Chief Christopher Long.

Composer Confirmation Letters

PPJ Formative Peer Review requires much more engagement between composers and reviewers than is traditionally part of academic scholarship. We encourage its recognition as an intellectually rigorous process, just as we encourage recognition that works published in the Journal are strong contributions to their pertinent fields and to public philosophy more broadly. The editors are happy to provide confirmation letters for inclusion in packages for tenure and promotion reviews, applications for graduate study, and applications for academic or non-academic employment. If your work is published in the Journal or is currently under review, you may request a letter by contacting