When he founded Middle Eastern Studies in 1964, Elie Kedourie, the renowned Iraqi-British professor, omitted the peer review process (or refereeing, the practice of submitting scholarly work for evaluation by experts in the subject) to increase his flexibility as editor and to encourage path-breaking research. In part due to this decision, Middle Eastern Studies quickly became a leading publication in its field.
Peer review conducted with an open mind can improve the contents of a journal; but if done with prejudice, it contributes to a straitjacketing, as senior professors exploit blind reviews to require their juniors to conform to an academic orthodoxy. Non-tenured faculty who refuse to play the game lack the peer-reviewed work necessary for promotion. As the editor of The Lancet, Britain's top medical journal, has noted, peer review can be but "a crude means of discovering the acceptability—not the validity—of a new finding."
Likewise, since the Middle East Quarterly began publication in 1994, its editors have made nearly all publication decisions because, as we noted in our inaugural issue, so few other specialists on the Middle East and Islam shared its mission of considering the region "explicitly from the viewpoint of American interests." Indeed, many other journals, we wrote, "even tend to sympathize with states and organizations hostile" to the United States.
The Quarterly has become an outlet of choice for policy practitioners and senior scholars secure in their tenure and displeased with the ideological rigidity of the peer-reviewed journals. Still, the lack of peer review outlets left junior faculty in the lurch, trapped between academic freedom and job security.
In 2009, circumstances have begun to change. This journal finds itself part of a growing community of specialists not hostile to the United States and its allies. As other journals and organizations have joined our ranks, they increased the circle of those with professional and expert knowledge of the Middle East and created a larger pool of reviewers to engage in a constructive process of refereeing.
These developments encourage us and lead to the announcement that, as of this first issue of our sixteenth year, the Middle East Quarterly is a peer-reviewed journal.
With this change, we have two goals: (1) to improve the quality of our contents by benefiting from the counsel of senior academics willing to judge articles on their scholarly merits; and (2) to give junior faculty an opportunity, while building their careers, to express their views freely.