Voices Peer Review: An Engaged Dialogue

By Katrina Skewes McFerran

The leaders of Voices have always cherished the values of participation, collaboration and democracy, but this has never been a naive pursuit. Democracy does not often come without a fight, and what may seem fair in one moment may soon come to be seen as inequitable when viewed from another perspective, or at another time. The previous edition of Voices exemplified those values and illustrated how things can and do change. In the special edition on disability studies, Sue Hadley drew together a set of papers and modelled for us how it is possible to grow and change in response to seeing and hearing new perspectives that challenge assumptions which have previously gone unchecked. As Sue is well known to quote - once you have seen something, you cannot un-see it. The Special Edition was a way of drawing our readers attention to things we may have assumed were being experienced differently; in this case, to challenge expert-driven practices which many of us believed were helpful and had not reflexively considered whether this was always so.

During the brief hiatus that was offered to some of the editorial team while Sue ably managed the special edition, we took the opportunity to once again examine our processes, and once again, to reach out into the Voices community and invite our reviewing team to recommit to the values that drive Voices. Having only recently expanded the editorial team and welcomed a dynamic group of passionate music therapy scholars to take more responsibility for achieving the vision of Voices, we turned our attention to those who do the business of reviewing. These are the people who generously donate hundreds of hours to carefully considering the papers that are submitted to Voices, providing feedback that we in the editorial team then share with our writers in what we like to describe as a process of engaged dialogue.

Voices, as a peer reviewed journal, aspires to live out the values of participation, collaboration and democracy through processes that are intentionally distinct to those that are aligned with objective views and subscribe to scientific views about the judgment of quality. We begin that process by inviting well located peers to consider contributions and provide critical feedback. Our editors then engage in a conversation with the writers themselves to contemplate how their peers’ views might be incorporated to strengthen and deepen the paper. Developing peer review processes that acknowledge subjectivity and embrace critical perspectives in ways that are decidedly distinct from the traditional objective approach has been a challenge. It is not easy to balance high expectations about the quality of the papers that we are proud to publish without falling into making judgments that are aligned with positivist beliefs about the good and the bad, that which should be in and out. We strive to focus on what can be expressed inter-subjectively and to laud the critical.

It is these demands on critical thinking that led us to communicate once again with our reviewing community. Those reviewers listed on our website have all agreed to attempt these dialogical reviewing processes, and to consider papers for Voices using a different lens to that which they might normally adopt when reviewing for other journals. They have offered to give feedback about what perspectives might be missing, what assumptions might be being made and which ideas embedded in the paper might bear further consideration. This is not shared as a dictate to the writer but is seen as an integral part of the dialogue that then occurs and is facilitated by our talented editorial team.

Our intention is that the papers published represent the Voices of people from all over the world, bringing different cultural values and beliefs. This includes objectivist perspectives, but also, so much more. We are also proud that this work continues to be available to all people, without need for privileged access through university libraries or by paying prohibitive fees. The free, open-access to Voices that the web-site provides is a crucial part of how we aim to match our values with action. The current edition is satisfying in the diversity of Voices represented from different cultures of music therapy and beyond and is freely available for you and your colleagues to read.

With all this in mind, we invite you to engage critically with what this edition has to offer and hope that you enjoy the hours of stimulating reading ahead.

With best wishes from the Editorial Team.