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Dec 15, 2006

The future of research journals and peer-review

via Langreiter

a commentary at the Journal of Neuroscience speculates on the future of research journals and peer-review:

Research studies appear on databases, not in journals

First, I don't think that it makes any sense to continue with paper copies of research articles. Instead of the "quasi-legal" document that is the current scientific article, we should be moving to full data being available on the web together with the software that might have been used to manipulate the data, as well as multimedia presentations to back up the data. Research papers are primarily of interest to other researchers in the same area, and they usually don't need the introduction and certainly not the discussion, which mostly degenerates to hype anyway
If an absence of peer review (or post-publication review, as I call it) is a step too far, then we should have an author (or rather funder) pays model. These fees could support a peer review mechanism, which should be open in that both authors and readers would know who was reviewing studies. It's ethically unacceptable that such important judgements should be made an unidentified judge. Like it or not, we live in a world where what is not transparent is deemed to be biased, corrupt, or incompetent until proved otherwise. Plus I believe that peer review should be a scientific discourse rather than an arbitrary judgment. This is far from radical: it's simply science returning to its roots when science was presented and discussed at meetings rather than published in journals.

Perhaps we will invent new forms of peer review by learning from innovations like Wikipedia. It is in some ways a form of peer review, only reviewers make changes directly rather than simply commenting.
Another worry from the conservative about such a system is to wonder how credit would be allocated. At present credit comes from publishing in prestigious journals. Often the impact factor of the journal (a dubious and manipulated statistic) is allocated to the paper, which is wholly unscientific because there is little correlation between the citations to studies and the impact factor of the journals in which they are published, because the impact factor of a journal is driven by a small number of highly cited studies (Seglen, 1997). In the new world I'm imagining, credit would come from the buzz from researchers and hits on the study. These hits can be disclosed in real time, unlike citations, which come years after studies are published.

00:25 Posted in Research tools | Permalink | Comments (0) | Tags: research tools

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