Jun 5

Tim O'Reilly

Tim O'Reilly

Nature's Open Peer Review

Timo Hannay wrote in email: "Nature has launched a debate on peer-review and a trial of one form of 'open peer review'. I've blogged some more details here."

Bravo. Nature continues to be a leader in figuring out how the web can be used to transform science publishing, with experiments ranging from social bookmarking of scholarly articles with Connotea to Declan Butler's use of Google Earth for bird flu tracking, and now, deep thinking about peer review as the very bedrock of the scientific process.

There are two parts to what Nature is doing. First, a public debate about the methods and value of peer review:

The web debate contains a range of perspectives about peer review from those who believe it is working well, to those who prefer other options. What is the value of peer review, and how does it ensure quality? What are the ethical concerns? Are there viable alternatives, either technical or in terms of management of the process? And above all, what is the scientists' experience of the process, either as authors or as reviewers themselves? Nature's web debate provides a lively range of views, updated weekly. We invite you to read, and to post your own comments and suggestions.

The second part of the project is even more interesting:

In Nature's peer review trial, lasting for three months, authors can choose to have their submissions posted on a preprint server for open comments, in parallel with the conventional peer review process. Anyone in the field may then post comments, provided they are prepared to identify themselves. Once the usual confidential peer review process is complete, the public 'open peer review' process will be closed. Nature will report on the results after the trial period is over.

In his blog entry, Timo also points to a fascinating article by Herbert van de Sompel (who I met at the recent Reading 2.0 summit) about the ways that technology could improve the peer review process, both by identifying possible reviewers based on net-based analysis of the subject domain, and by unbundling some of the various functions that are normally performed by a scientific publisher, and recombining them into a "network-based value chain."

Herbert's analysis of the many functions that are now "bundled" by a publisher can possibly be reconfigured via the net is food for thought for any publisher, not just scientific publishers, and you can be sure that they are very much on the radar here at O'Reilly.

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Comments: 2

  Joe Hunkins [06.05.06 08:19 PM]

>>identifying possible reviewers based on >>net-based analysis of the subject domain ...

Cool and good for Nature! would certainly seem that science could optimize, enhance, expand the review process by reaching out to the global community more effectively.

My beef with the peer review process is that it appears in many cases to create small niche "elites" that may be disinclined to shake things up in their community.

Example - archeologists who first suggested alternatives to Clovis Culture assumptions feared publishing due to widespread rejection of (now accepted) dates they discoverd that conflicted with widespread expert assumptions.

  Andy Oram [06.07.06 06:01 AM]

It's no coincidence, I'm sure, that Nature published the Britannica-versus-Wikipedia study (very controversial) six months ago. Nature is clearly committed to the defense of community-developed information.

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