21 December 2006

Open Peer Review: Not in Their Nature

One door opens, another door closes: Nature has decided to bin its open peer review experiment:

Despite the significant interest in the trial, only a small proportion of authors opted to participate. There was a significant level of expressed interest in open peer review among those authors who opted to post their manuscripts openly and who responded after the event, in contrast to the views of the editors. A small majority of those authors who did participate received comments, but typically very few, despite significant web traffic. Most comments were not technically substantive. Feedback suggests that there is a marked reluctance among researchers to offer open comments.

Nature and its publishers will continue to explore participative uses of the web. But for now at least, we will not implement open peer review.

I suspect that Nature was probably the worst possible place to try this experiment. Nature is simply the top spot for scientific publishing: getting a paper published there can make somebody's career. So the last thing most people want is anything that might increase the risk of rejection. Public discussion of submitted papers certainly falls into that category, both for the commenter and commented (think scientific mafia).

In a way, this is what makes PLoS ONE so important: it's a tabula rasa for this kind of thing, and can redefine what scientific publishing is about. Nature and its contributors are hardly likely to want to do the same. Kudos to the title for trying, but I bet they're relieved it flopped. (Via Techdirt.)

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