Peer review: the end of an error?

“It is not easy to have a paper published in the Lancet, so Wakefield’s paper presumably underwent a stringent process of peer review. As a result, it received a very strong endorsement from the scientific community. This gave a huge impetus to anti-vaccination campaigners and may well have led to hundreds of preventable deaths. By contrast, the two mathematics ­preprints were not peer reviewed, but that did not stop the correctness or otherwise of their claims being satisfactorily established.

An obvious objection to that last sentence is that the mathematics preprints were in fact peer-reviewed. They may not have been sent to referees by the editor of a journal, but they certainly were carefully scrutinized by peers of the authors. So to avoid any confusion, let me use the phrase “formal peer review” for the kind that is organized by a journal and “informal peer review” for the less official scrutiny that is carried out whenever an academic reads an article and comes to some sort of judgement on it. My aim here is to question whether we need formal peer review. It goes without saying that peer review in some form is essential, but it is much less obvious that it needs to be organized in the way it usually is today, or even that it needs to be organized at all.

What would the world be like without formal peer review? One can get some idea by looking at what the world is already like for many mathematicians. These days, the arXiv is how we disseminate our work, and the arXiv is how we establish priority. A typical pattern is to post a preprint to the arXiv, wait for feedback from other mathematicians who might be interested, post a revised version of the preprint, and send the revised version to a journal. The time between submitting a paper to a journal and its appearing is often a year or two, so by the time it appears in print, it has already been thoroughly assimilated. Furthermore, looking a paper up on the arXiv is much simpler than grappling with most journal websites, so even after publication it is often the arXiv preprint that is read and not the journal’s formatted version. Thus, in mathematics at least, journals have become almost irrelevant: their main purpose is to provide a stamp of approval, and even then one that gives only an imprecise and unreliable indication of how good a paper actually is….

An alternative system would almost certainly not be perfect, but to insist on perfection, given the imperfections of the current system, is nothing but status quo bias. To guard against this, imagine that an alternative system were fully established and see whether you can mount a convincing argument for switching to what we have now, where all the valuable commentary would be hidden away and we would have to pay large sums of money to read each other’s writings. You would be laughed out of court.”

Six New Preprint Services Join a Growing Community Across Disciplines

 

“This week, six communities launched preprint services to accelerate dissemination of research. INA-Rxiv, the preprint server of Indonesia; LISSA, an open scholarly platform for library and information science;  MindRxiv, a service for research on mind and contemplative practices; NutriXiv, a preprint service for the nutritional sciences; paleorXiv, a digital archive for Paleontology; and SportRxiv, an open archive for sport and exercise-related research….These new services join AgriXiv (agriculture), BITSS (research methodology), engrXiv (Engineering), LawArXiv (law), PsyArXiv (psychology), SocArXiv (social sciences), Thesis Commons (theses and dissertations), and OSF Preprints (any discipline) in using the free, open-source Open Science Framework (OSF)….The operators of these 14 preprint services illustrate the global growth and diversity of stakeholders invested in accelerating research.  Some of the services are operated by scientific societies (e.g., PsyArXiv), some are operated by research funders (e.g., MindRxiv), some are operated by libraries and library societies (e.g., LawArXiv), and some are operated by grassroots communities of researchers (e.g., SportRxiv, NutriXiv).  All groups are increasing the accessibility and impact of the research done in their community….In addition to hosting preprint services, OSF uses SHARE to aggregate and index over two million search results from preprint providers hosted on other platforms such as arXivbioRXiv, and PeerJ….”

Interview with PLOS ONE Academic Editor – Michael Petraglia | EveryONE: The PLOS ONE blog

“Someday, I hope that all journal articles in my field are available to researchers around the world and the public at large, and not hidden behind pay-walls. After all, scientific research is heavily supported by tax-payers, so members of the public should be able to see, enjoy and learn what is being accomplished in the ever-expanding, and exciting field of human evolutionary studies.”

Learning to be open: Open Access as a deliberate academic practice – Futures

“I believe open access is the way to do right by one’s research and maintain the integrity of the work, as much as we’re doing right by society at large through our research. We need to also empower early-career academics to know exactly what control they have over their own work, and what can be done with it, and in making a principled decision about access to their research. These decisions need to be considered at the beginning of the research process already and not just at the end. Just as with any new mode of practice, open access has a learning curve that requires deliberate and purposeful practice, but pays off very quickly in terms of citations, research impact, and social impact. So the next time you have a paper waiting to be written, look up the open access options in your discipline. In the meanwhile, make sure to find the preprint copies of all your published papers and deposit them in your institutional repository.”

Towards open science in Argentina: From experiences to public policies | Arza | First Monday

Abstract:  The emergence and wide diffusion of information and communication technologies created ever increasing opportunities for sharing and collaboration, which shortened geographic, disciplinary and expertise distances. There exist various technologies, tools and infrastructure that facilitate collaborative production processes in various social spheres, and scientific production is not an exception. Open science produces scientific knowledge in a collaborative way, including experts and non-experts and to share the outcomes of knowledge creation processes. We identify 68 open science initiatives in Argentina using different primary and secondary sources. This paper describes those experiences in terms of goals, disciplines and openness along research stages. Building on the relationship between characteristics of openness and expected benefits, we discuss policy implications in order to better support openness and collaboration in science.

Impact of Social Sciences – A closer look at the Sci-Hub corpus: what is being downloaded and from where?

“Sci-Hub remains among the most common sites via which readers circumvent article paywalls and access scholarly literature. But where exactly are its download requests coming from? And just what is being downloaded? Bastian Greshake has analysed the full Sci-Hub corpus and its request data, and found that articles are being downloaded from all over the world, more recently published papers are among the most requested, and there is a marked overrepresentation of requested articles from journals publishing on chemistry….”

Why Is Open Access Moving So Slowly In The Humanities? | Blog of the APA

“Open-access repositories took off fastest in physics and open-access journals took off fastest in biomedicine. There are fascinating cultural and economic reasons why these disciplines opened first. But let’s focus on the other end of the pack where open access is moving the slowest. Why is it moving so slowly in the humanities?

Here are nine differences between the humanities and the sciences that help explain their different rates of progress.”

Promoting open access in the humanities

The blog of the +American Philosophical Association is reprinting my 2004 article, “Promoting open access in the humanities,” in three new blog posts.

The first of three APA posts appeared today.
http://blog.apaonline.org/2017/06/01/open-access-in-the-humanities/

Here’s the full article.
https://dash.harvard.edu/handle/1/4729720

I’ve slightly revised the APA version to word things the way I’d word them today. But unfortunately I didn’t have time to update the substance. The examples and evidence are limited to what I knew in early 2004, which is close to ancient history in internet time.

For more recent examples and evidence, see the updates and supplements to my 2012 book (Open Access, MIT Press).
http://bit.ly/oa-book

Also see the items tagged with “oa.humanities” and “oa.philosophy” at the Open Access Tracking Project.
http://tagteam.harvard.edu/hubs/oatp/tag/oa.humanities
http://tagteam.harvard.edu/hubs/oatp/tag/oa.philosophy

These tag libraries are crowd-sourced, and you can make them more complete by taking part in the OATP. See the OATP home page for more detail.
http://bit.ly/o-a-t-p

ScienceOpen is a resource for the community – ScienceOpen Blog

“We harvest content from across platforms like PubMed Central, arXiv, SciELO and bring it all together in one place

One of the main features of ScienceOpen is that we are a research aggregator. We don’t select what we index based on discipline, publisher, or geography, as that just creates another silo. Enough of those exist already. What we need, and what we do, is to bring together research articles from across publishers and other platforms and into one space, where it is all treated in exactly the same way….”