Formative Peer Review is a healthier, more effective way to review and develop work for publication.

Traditional peer review at academic journals serves a gatekeeping role, determining whether a piece is publishable or not; this decisions comes after the piece is nearly complete. Often, other peer review models prove hostile to new ideas, unproven composers, and unfamiliar audiences. The process can even be traumatic for those involved. We are changing that with transparency, community engagement, and ongoing, developmental conversations.

FPR nurtures new ideas by supporting pieces through their development, which creates supportive experiences for composers and audiences. In the review process, the goal is to both prepare pieces for publication and improve them in those preparations. We structure FPR to encourage peer engagement rooted in trust and a shared commitment to improving the work through candid and colegial feedback. The review process is formative in a twofold sense:

      1. The Piece: FPR helps shape the work so that it might effectively enrich public life, and
      2. The People: FPR cultivates habits of responsiveness and collegiality among participants.

Because the review process is formative for the piece and the people involved, each participant must enter into it willing to learn and be transformed by the process itself.

FPR is not a final judgment of quality. It is helpful assistance along the journey to quality.

- Bethany Laursen, former Editorial Assistant


Formative Peer Review is 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 means by which 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. Relationships among Review Team members–composers, Review Coordinators, composer nominated reviewers, and other reviewers–are the heart of our publicly inflected publishing efforts.

Together Review Teams develop an inclusive, supportive space in which ideas are explored 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.


1. Authors submit a draft, provide review feedback including a Community Ethics Statement, and nominate a potential reviewer from a community invested in the topic under discussion.

2. A PPJ Review Coordinator invites the community reviewer, identifies an academic reviewer, identifies an additional reviewer, and manages the review process. If no reviewer has been selected, the Review Coordinator will follow up with a request for a reviewer nomination, prior to selecting both reviewers.

3. The reviewers describe, evaluate, and provide other suggestions to ensure that the piece fulfills the PPJ’s 4 style criteria.

4. The Review Coordinator plays an active role in the review process, asking clarifying questions, providing additional comments, and assisting the composer in interpreting the reviews.

5. Composers review their feedback and engage with the Review Team as they prepare a revision plan.

6. Reviewers are invited to consider the revised submission, provide additional comments, and compose or revise their Public Holistic Responses for publication in the journal issue together with the author’s submission.