08 February 2010

Beyond Open Access: Open Publishing

Another splendid piece from Cameron Neylon calling into question the value of traditional peer review:

Whatever value it might have we largely throw away. Few journals make referee’s reports available, virtually none track the changes made in response to referee’s comments enabling a reader to make their own judgement as to whether a paper was improved or made worse. Referees get no public credit for good work, and no public opprobrium for poor or even malicious work. And in most cases a paper rejected from one journal starts completely afresh when submitted to a new journal, the work of the previous referees simply thrown out of the window.

Much of the commentary around the open letter has suggested that the peer review process should be made public. But only for published papers. This goes nowhere near far enough. One of the key points where we lose value is in the transfer from one journal to another. The authors lose out because they’ve lost their priority date (in the worse case giving the malicious referees the chance to get their paper in first). The referees miss out because their work is rendered worthless. Even the journals are losing an opportunity to demonstrate the high standards they apply in terms of quality and rigor – and indeed the high expectations they have of their referees.

What Neylon has exposed here is that scientific publishing - even the kind that wears its open access badge with pride - simply isn't open in any deep way. We need to be able to see the whole process, for the reasons he mentions. Open access isn't enough, not even with open data: we need *open publishing*.

And yes, that's going to be a huge shift, and painful for many. But if that's the price of producing better scientific papers - and hence better science - surely it's a price worth paying. (Via Nat Torkington.)

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

No comments: