Beyond the many criticisms of peer review—some new, some perennial—two recent developments are especially intriguing. First, the open-access journals, which already make use of the Internet as their basic means of publication, are now finding ways to incorporate many so-called “Web 2.0” tools for collaboration, comment, and criticism. So, for example, a forthcoming multidisciplinary academic journal called Philica seeks to institute a peer-review process that is “transparent” (meaning that “reviews can be seen publicly”) and “dynamic” (“because opinions can change over time, and this is reflected in the review process”). Instead of following the print-journal model of publishing articles after peer-review, Philica will publish articles before peer-review. “When somebody reviews your article, the impact of that review depends on the reviewer’s own reviews,” the Philica website says. “This means that the opinion of somebody whose work is highly regarded carries more weight than the opinion of somebody whose work is rated poorly. A person’s standing, and so their impact on other people’s ratings, changes constantly as part of the dynamic Philica world. Ideas and opinions change all the time—Philica lets us see this. This really is publishing like never before.”Another new open-access journal is likely to have an even bigger impact on the scientific community. The Public Library of Science will be launching its seventh journal in November 2006, called PLoS ONE. In an implicit challenge to Nature and Science, PLoS ONE will be the first of the group’s journals to publish articles in all areas of science and medicine. Articles published in the new journal will undergo peer review, but some of the standard criteria that older journals use to screen out articles—like “degree of advance” or “interest to a general reader”—won’t be used by PLoS ONE reviewers; all papers of scientific merit will be posted to the public record. Only weeks (not months) will go by before a submitted article is published, since instead of coming out periodically issue-by-issue, PLoS ONE will be in a state of continuous publication. A more public review process will continue after publication, as readers will be able to rate, annotate, and comment on papers, and authors can respond to their comments. The original paper will remain as such, but comments, revisions, and updates will orbit nearby, an electronic Talmud on every article of significance….The second major development is that traditional peer review is under reconsideration even within the heart of establishment scientific publishing. This summer, the journal Nature is experimenting with a similar system of public review. Although the journal’s articles will continue to go through the standard closed peer review process, a public version of peer review will be working in parallel: certain submissions will be posted online to solicit reader feedback, in hopes that experts will voluntarily review the articles. If this experiment shows that posted “pre-prints” receive enough attention online, Nature will apparently consider altering its traditional peer review practices. The journal is meanwhile sponsoring an ongoing online debate about peer review, with articles about the pros, cons, and future of refereeing.
from Rethinking Peer Review: How the Internet is Changing Science Journals online at the New Atlantis.
Previously from WNM: Are wikis a poor man’s peer review, or the natural home for new research?
Update.12.30.06: Open peer review a bust for Nature from Ars