Developments in publishing

How are recent developments in scholarly communication affecting the peer review process?

Many of the questions concerning possible changes to the peer review system were raised by a recent debate in Nature (1). The editorial which launched the Nature 'open peer review' trial stated:

'Peer review is the bedrock of scientific publication...It is widely considered essential for improving submitted papers and enhancing the credentials of scientists as well as those of the journals in which they choose to publish. 
'But, like any process, peer review requires occasional scrutiny and assessment. Has the Internet brought new opportunities for journals to manage peer review more imaginatively or by different means? Are there any systematic flaws in the process? Should the process be transparent or confidential? Is the journal even necessary, or could scientists manage the peer review process themselves?' (2)

Other factors affecting the dissemination of research information and influencing the debate on peer review include:

  • Informal electronic distribution of research papers.
  • Researchers putting 'working papers' on their own web pages.
  • The development of subject repositories and institutional (digital) repositories and the development of the open access movement. (The next part of this unit covers Open Access.)
  • The open peer review system where manuscripts are posted by journals for comment. This open discussion, in which (unlike traditional peer review) the reviewers are identified, is then assessed by the journal editor before a decision is made whether the paper can be accepted for formal publication.
References

1. Peer review on trial [Editorial] Nature, 441(7094), 2006 p. 668. Available from:http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v441/n7094/full/441668a.html [Accessed 20th May 2008]. 
2. Nature. Nature peer review trial and debateOverview: Nature’s Peer Review Trial [Online] Available fromhttp://www.nature.com/nature/peerreview/index.html [Accessed 20th May 2008].

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PILOT - Communication by Marion Kelt, GCU, Imperial College, London and East Midlands Research Group is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.