There have been many discussions on this blog - and others - about the ills of the law review publishing system, which may be unintentionally exacerbated by services like Expresso which make it cheap and easy for more authors to submit more papers to more journals. And we have had threads before where we've compared our system with the blind peer reviewing system common in other disciplines - and common in other countries in academic legal publishing.
So in the middle of the night last night I was struck with a thought about whether there is any way of combining the two systems and getting the best of both worlds - although anything I come up with in the middle of the night is likely to lead to the worst of both worlds.
My thought was whether a formal peer-reviewing service could be incorporated into the system we already have and whether that could make article selection and editing smoother sailing and less time consuming for editors and authors. What about a third party peer reviewing service that could use professional peer reviewers to write short reports emphasizing the strengths and weaknesses of an article prior to submission to journals? (I suggest third party here so that blind peer review could be organized, rather than authors just asking their colleagues to write nice things about their work prior to submission that they could then use in the submission process.)
Such a system would potentially allow authors to submit papers to journals accompanied by peer reviews. This may make article selection easier for journal editors who could at least use blind peer reviews as a proxy for quality as opposed to letterhead of the author or any other factor that might come into play? Of course, one would hope that articles selection editors would still carefully read pieces they were interested in publishing but, let's face it, no one board can read multiple thousands of submissions each cycle so they have to have some kinds of proxies to help with at least a first cut.
I haven't thought this out any further and the logistics may be impossible, but couldn't some enterprising group set up a pay-per-use peer reviewing service? This would simply be interposing an optional third party service much in the way we have done for article submission by using Expresso as a paid third party rather than submitting directly to many individual journals? Or is this just injecting too many middle men into the process? Could Expresso introduce such an optional service itself if it could be managed cost-effectively?