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12-Jun-2006

Peer-Review is Dead – Long Live “Peer-Review 2.0”

Before an article gets published in a traditional scholarly journal – Print or Online – it undergoes a quality-check process called Peer Review. But this process does have some drawbacks. First one is that it is time-consuming process. Which adds to the delay in publication. Such a delay could be very significant if research results could be used to immediate problems – for example ‘avian flu’. Second drawback is that it could add to the “biases” as quality control is in the hands of two or three peer-reviewers.
Interactive nature of Internet has offered scholarly journals to experiment with peer-review process. "Nature" for example is undertaking an open peer review trial. In this trial, authors whose submissions to Nature are sent for peer review will also be offered the opportunity to participate in an open peer review process. In this three month trial, authors can choose to have their submissions posted on a preprint server for open comments, in parallel with the conventional peer review process.
Now an Open Access Publisher - Public Library of Science is coming up with PLoS ONE . It claims to offer a new approach to the way that scientific research is communicated. It will “identify” papers that are technically sound and publish them “rapidly”. These will be presented for open and continuous review to whole scientific community. They believe that published papers are not some form of absolute truth but part of an ongoing discussion. Interestingly their PloS ONE site is subtitled “Open Access 2.0”.
BMJ also has been trying to answer problems of traditional peer review [see its editorial - Peer review: reform or revolution? Time to open up the black box of peer review. It also has a RAPID RESPONSES feature which enables readers to comment on published articles.

There are some extreme views also to do away the “Peer-Review” as such. In a pitch for Wikipedia Concept, Peter Frishauf [Are Traditional Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles Obsolete? A Pitch for the Wikipedia Concept, -Reguires Free Registration] argues, “ we depend on peer-reviewed articles in print and online. But is this method obsolete? And is there a better way? Traditional medical articles are often outdated before publication. Consider HIV, SARs, avian flu -- even hormone replacement therapy. They're not comprehensive: For any topic, we have to read dozens of articles to be informed. And bias is always present, regardless of peer review… Based on a radical new model of publishing, on Wikipedia nearly anyone with a Web connection can start or edit an article. Contributors must agree to write in neutral point of view (NPV). Opinion is fair game for deletion by the first Wikipedian who reads it -- typically within 30 seconds of publication.”

What ever it takes – the era of “Post-Publication Peer Review” has begun. I wish to call it “Peer-Review 2.0”.

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