Electronic Peer Review

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Oct 26 10:59:01 EST 1995

See comments below - Alex Berezin

On Wed, 25 Oct 1995, Jeffrey H. Boatright wrote:

> The first articles of Molecular Vision, a new Web journal, are available at:
> http://www.emory.edu/MOLECULAR_VISION/index.html
> (The URL is case-sensitive. The easiest way to navigate to the site is to
> copy the URL text from here and paste it into your browser). 
> Molecular Vision is a peer-reviewed Web journal dedicated to the
> dissemination of research results in molecular and cell biology and
> genetics of the visual system (ocular and cortical). We accept regular
> research articles, short reports, technical briefs (which need not involve
> vision science), and invited reviews.
> As with print journals, submissions to Molecular Vision are vigorously
> reviewed. Molecular Vision is NOT a preprint journal. Except for review
> articles, manuscripts should present original, unpublished material not
> being considered for publication elsewhere.
> Please visit the journal. Feel free to make suggestions.
> Jeffrey H. Boatright
> John M. Nickerson
> Robert L. Church
> Editors-in-Chief, Molecular Vision
> http://www.emory.edu/MOLECULAR_VISION/index.html

I suggest that the above idea of "viogrous peer review"
is quite detrimental. All you have to do is to check for
general relevance and post all submissions. The following
short article gives more explanations.


Published in "Physics World", April 1995, p. 25

   David Voss ("Physicists hit the infobahn", Physics
World, February 1995, pp. 43-45) raises the question which 
more and more of us are perceiving as a newly emerging 
pseudo-issue: peer-review for electronic publishing. Many
recent studies have concluded that the major reason for
the growth of anonymous peer review (APR) is not quality 
control mechanism (which doesn't have to be anonymous) 
but primarily the validation of "belonging to a club". 
As long as a peer-reviewed paper in a "reputable" journal
remains the major unit of currency for career advancement 
and winning research grants, vicious publish-or-perish 
circle - where the motto is "the more, the better" - will
persist, for paper and electronic journals alike.

   Numerous recent discussions on "how to adapt peer 
review to electronic publishing" manifestly miss the 
real issue - is APR a legitimate instrument of scientific 
progress ? That's where the bulk of historical data 
testifies magnificently against APR (see, e.g., M.Kenward, 
"Peer review and the axe murderers", New Scientist, 102, 
p.13, 31 May 1984).

   Science is a self-regulating and self-correcting 
process. Its quality is validated through an open (not
secretive) assessment and confirmation or rejections 
of ideas and methods. Recent advances in electronic 
publishing give us all the necessary tools for a gradual
replacement of APR by an interactive open review in 
a form of freely added comments to electronically 
published articles. Contrary  to widespread fears, 
such an open system will REDUCE, not increase, the 
amount of scientific garbage. As for the still dominant
system of APR, it mostly flourished in the 20th century 
and we had better leave it there for good.

Alexander A. Berezin, 
Department of Engineering Physics, McMaster 
University, Canada


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