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Anonymous review as strategic ritual: examining the rise of anonymous review among mainland Chinese communication journals

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The validity of academic knowledge largely rests on the reviewing procedures employed in scholarly publishing that shape and produce it. Drawing on fieldwork and in-depth interviews with journal editors and researchers, the paper aims to give an account of the rise of anonymous review among communication journals in mainland China, which has been modeled after western (especially the US) practice and added to, instead of replacing, the existing editor-leading three-stage reviewing approach. The paper examines the way by which journals articulate the ‘international convention,’ the negotiation between the emerging practice and the old institutional environment, and its implication for the legitimacy of journal publication. This paper contends that the cross-societal imitation of anonymous (peer) review is an attempt to obtain procedural legitimacy when the official legitimacy falls into crisis. Ideally, it functions as a ‘strategic ritual’ which lays a general foundation for journal organizations to claim credibility and provides resources for gatekeepers to defend their cultural authority and shield them against criticism or unfavorable requests. But in reality, the extent of adoption and implementation of anonymous review is largely restricted and reconfigured by the real institutional environment (i.e., the danwei system) in which it takes shape.
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Keywords: anonymous review; legitimacy; mainland China; scholarly journals; strategic ritual

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Journalism and Communication, College of Media & International Culture,Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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