Web journals may turn peer-review system on its head

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  • #1
what does everyone think of this?

Web journals may turn peer-review system on its head
Last Updated: Monday, October 2, 2006 | 8:42 AM ET
The Associated Press

Scientists frustrated by the iron grip that academic journals hold over their research can now pursue another path to fame by taking their research straight to the public online.

Instead of having a group of hand-picked scholars review research in secret before publication, a growing number of internet-based journals are publishing studies with little or no scrutiny by the authors' peers. It's then up to rank-and-file researchers to debate the value of the work in cyberspace.

The web journals are threatening to turn on its head the traditional peer-review system that for decades has been the established way to pick apart research before it's made public.

In November, the San Francisco-based nonprofit Public Library of Science will launch its first open peer-reviewed journal called PLoS ONE, focusing on science and medicine. Like its sister publications, it will make research articles available for free online by charging authors to publish.

But unlike articles in other PLoS journals that undergo rigorous peer review, manuscripts in PLoS ONE are posted for the world to dissect after an editor gives them just a cursory look.


Democratizing the peer-review process raises sticky questions. Not all studies are useful and flooding the web with essentially unfiltered research could create a deluge of junk science. There's also the potential for online abuse as rogue researchers could unfairly ridicule a rival's work.

Supporters point out that rushing research to the public could accelerate scientific discovery, while online critiques may help detect mistakes or fraud more quickly.

although i've never had anything published nor even submitted anything i think i more or less agree with andrew odlyzko:
Andrew Odlyzko, a mathematician who heads the University of Minnesota's Digital Technology Center, is encouraged by the growing number of online journals. Whether they will work — he's not sure. Some researchers might only post unhelpful one-liners for fear of reprisal. Granting anonymity may boost participation, but could lead to "malicious postings from cracks," Odlyzko said.

i think journals like those would enable crackpots to get their "research" out to the world more easily, but if there is space for comments & review maybe the bad stuff would get filtered out eventually. i think it's at least worth a try. if wikipedia is anything to go by maybe these online journals could work. only one way to find out...:rolleyes:
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
How can they work or be taken seriously if there is no peer review?

Experts don't have the time to download a paper and check it for all the things a review requires.

The only way I can see it working is if it's kept ín-house, eg. like preprint servers which academic groups provide of their group's work.

If not, you'll just get loads of rubbish posted up on there by people who have been rejected by the academic community and have 'issues' with the review process.

The internet provides a lot of readily available information but it also dilutes knowledge. Let's hope that it doesn't get the chance to dilute new scientific work.
  • #3
The lack of peer review certainly wouldn't put an online journal very high on my credibility scale and list of journals to reference/cite. With the ease that crap can be placed online, crackpots usually don't have a problem getting their 'research' out to the world. Being able to publish in a non-peer reviewed journal though would give their stuff some form of pseudo-credibility, particularly with laypeople who don't really know better.
  • #4
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The thing here is that there ARE already examples of "open journals", and we can already see that there are already problems with such things. The e-print ArXiv is loosely one such example. While it was a free-for-all before, they have already seen that they simply cannot accomodate such policy becaue they were innundated by a lot of garbage. Now, you need a referral to be able to upload on there for the first time.

And anyone who thinks Wikipedia is a "good" example hasn't been following the news lately, and has no clue on the wrong info that one can easily get out of a physics entry on there.

The complaint against peer-reviewed journal that is the impetus for setting up such open journal is also not valid. There are MANY TIERS of peer-reviewed journal. If your paper can't get into one, look for another one, and another one, and another one. The fact that there are many different tiers of peer-reviewed journal means that if your idea has any degree of legitimacy, it will get published. I mean, even if dubious papers by Fleishman and Pons, and the Podkletnov effect can get published, then there's no excuse that fringe science can't get into peer-reviewed journals for the rest of the community to disect and test.

So the initial impetus for setting up such open journal is dubious in the first place.

  • #5
Considering the amount of people online that will blindly spout 9/11 and Moon hoax dogma I cannot see this as being a good idea. And it's not just the uninformed or the psuedointellectuals, and those people like that guy who wrote that book "The Final Theory" (I've only done high school physics and I can answer some of the questions he -claims- currect physics can't).


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