I’ve been made aware of two different opinions on state of science publishing as it relates to peer review and the pressure to publish even faster due to the Internet and all of its “instalaunch” tools.
First, in Nature, a comment by Dr. Jerome Ravetz: Sociology of science: Keep standards high.
He argues for embracing the new medium, while maintaining quality:
As more people become involved in online debates, quality need not fall by the wayside. It is encouraging to see that well-conducted discussions of points of contention between the scientific mainstream and critics are emerging, as the Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature study demonstrates (see Nature 478, 428; 2011).
Ultimately, effective quality assurance depends on trust. And science relies on trust more than most institutions. As Steven Shapin, a historian of science at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, showed in his 1994 book A Social History of Truth, trust is achieved and maintained only by mutual respect and civility of discourse. In a digital age, civility should be extended to, and reciprocated by, the extended peer community.
Scientists have a special responsibility, but also a special difficulty. When their training has been restricted to puzzles with just one right answer, scientists may find it hard to comprehend honest error, and may condemn those who persist in apparently wrong beliefs. But amid all the uncertainties of science in the digital age, if quality assurance is to be effective, this lesson of civility will need to be learned by us all.
Dr. Judith Curry has some thoughts on this here, she writes:
I am a fan of the concept of “extended peer community” put forth by Funtowicz and Ravetz. Also, Ravetz’s phrase “the radical implications of the blogosphere” has definitely stuck in my head. Re the civility issue, I agree some level of civility is needed. Some think that Climate Etc. is too raucous (a not infrequent complaint made at collide-a-scape). A fair place for an honest debate might not be especially courteous. But the blogosphere enables a range of different types of fora and moderation rules. The challenge is to extract signal from the noise. I am pleased that sociologists are studying this.
At the same time, we have an editorial in Nature Geoscience, Embargoes on the web stating that scientists are increasingly acting as reporters now, and as a result, sometimes run afoul of publication rules. I see this as a shot across the bow against such practice.
Now that researchers, too, are acting as reporters, the guideline for talking freely to scientists but not to journalists may sound contradictory. Who should count as a member of the media for the purpose of the Nature journals’ embargo policy? The same basic rule applies: if an author actively seeks media attention before publication, we consider this a breach of our embargo policy.
At the same time, it is important to Nature Geoscience and fellow Nature journals that the scientific debate does not stop while a paper is under consideration. This principle also remains: we want our authors to present and discuss their results at conferences and communicate them to their peers. So if someone in the audience — journalist or scientist — tweets or blogs about a talk, we will not consider it to be a breach of our pre-publication embargo (see also Nature 457, 1058; 2009).
Where they say:
…if an author actively seeks media attention before publication, we consider this a breach of our embargo policy.
This squarely applies to the pre-publication publicity stunts pulled by Dr. Richard Muller and his BEST team.
People wonder why I dropped my support for him (like the feckless Dr. Peter Glieck and his science B.S. of the year awards), the answer lies within the shenanigans he pulled after earning my trust to use my data. I had always expected my data to appear in a full peer reviewed publication, instead, Muller spewed it in Congress and in his own media blitz in releasing papers that hadn’t even run the peer review gauntlet.
It may take some time (and additional train wrecks like BEST) before scientists learn that they can be their own worst enemy with these sort of behaviors.
OTOH, I’ve been considering a web 2.0 peer review experiment of my own. WUWT now has the ability to offer a peer review service for articles and papers. It is a new feature I can activate into WordPress, and would allow comments by invited reviewers to be posted for authors prior to publication, so that articles can be evaluated by a broad base of techical readers prior to publication.
I welcome readers thoughts on this idea. – Anthony