Podcasts have skyrocketed in popularity over the past few years. And while we mostly think of them in the context of entertainment, they are also alive and well in academia as a communication tool and resource for students in the digital age. Now comes news that podcasts have the potential to be even more: academic research in and of themselves. Here’s a closer look at the podcast in this context, as reported by University Affairs (UA).

Podcasts and Peer Review?

University researchers and academic publishers have teamed up to form the Scholarly Podcasting in Canada initiative. Its aim is to determine a peer review model applicable to podcasts. Currently, the process involves an editor listening to the podcast and offering feedback on episodes over the course of a season. Upon conclusion of the season, however, the new model takes it a step further by opening up the entire season for review by scholars in the field.

Assistant professor of publishing Hannah McGregor said, “They understand -- frankly, better than I could -- what is at stake with respect to opening up, not setting aside, the conventions of scholarly publishing.” Specifically, McGregor would ask them targeted questions, such as whether the podcast could be considered scholarly and if the reviewers could equate the podcast with a book published by a university press.

Pushing the Boundaries and Changing Perspectives

The comments of the reviewers were published on website of the academic press. And while some feedback was practical and technical, other insights challenged Dr. McGregor to push back against conventions and to connect the work back to scholarship. “The peer reviewers keep pushing me to be open to what is possible, to stop second-guessing myself on whether or not dialogue counts as a legitimate scholarly form,” she said.

McGregor also revealed that the project gave her a new perspective. “My sense of what peer review was, and the sense that most scholars have, is [there is] only one version of it: the double-blind, closed peer review, with all of the jokes that come with it about Reviewer 2 and all the mean things they say.”

With the podcast project, however, that changed. “It feels so much like my scholarly community trying to help me do something productive, which is what it should be.”