No Peer Review: LESS Garbage

Alexander Berezin berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA
Thu Jan 18 20:26:50 EST 1996

On 18 Jan 1996, Gregory R. Harriman wrote:

> In article
> <Pine.SOL.3.91.960118100331.25106A-100000 at mcmail.CIS.McMaster.CA>,
> berezin at MCMAIL.CIS.MCMASTER.CA (Alexander Berezin) wrote:
> > Hogwash or not, but you may bother to look through
> > citations studies which say that about HALF of all
> > published papers (peer reviewed, of course) are NEVER
> > cited even a single time (and half of the remaining
> > are cited just once - often as self-citation).
> >   Are this papers silly or not is not critically
> > important - most imopratnt is that they are useless
> > for all practical purposes (again, some exceptions
> > of course may happen, but these are rarities). 

>      Even if one agreed with this assertion, it is inconceivable that
> doing away with all types of review (anonymous or otherwise) would
> decrease, rather than increase, the number of useless papers that are
> published.  

On the contrary, it is very much conceivable. In peer review
environment publication of paper (esp. in 'highly prestigeous'
journal) brings you Currency Unit of Recognition (CUR).
In non-PR environment (or in non-PR section of PR journal)
publication of paper as such brings no CUR (status of self-
circulated manuscript). The journal pages is simply a vechicle
to spead paper. The value (importance) of paper will come
from comments. No comments - no CUR. Bad comments - USUALLY
negative CUR, however often chance for positive CUR later
(breakthrough reserach is often not reconnized as such

The best (as I suggest) to start mixed system (non PR
sections in PR journals) and see where it will go. We,
scientists, should (I hope) ALL agree that the only
(or at least the best) way to solve the problem is to
run the experiments. This is precisely what I am suggesting,
though I personally don't have the resources to do it
on my own. Should there will be a group (critical mass)
of people to run Non-PR experiment, I will be interested
to join at some capacity. 
> Without some type of mechanism for ascertaining the quality of
> a submitted paper, the inevitable result will be more crap getting
> published.

I am not sure. Say, Physical Review will run the followin experiment
for (say) 2 years: 10 % space goes in Non-PR section and another 5 % 
on brief but OPEN (non-PR) comments on ANY article published recently
(time frame may apply) in this journal (i.e. people are equally
free to comment on PR and NPR). In 2 years it will enough material
to establish the presence (if any) and sign of correlation between
the relative quality and impact of PR and NPR papers as reflected 
in the number and the content of comments. I personally expect
much more hogwash on PR side, but won't insist untill the 
experiment is actually run. 

> > > PRACTICAL SUGGESTION FOR APR OPPONENTS:  Start your own journal.
> > > Set up an E-journal. Set up a site which is a central repository
> > > or listing of NPR E-papers.  Become a journal editor and institute
> > > NPR.  Publish your own papers by the mechanisms listed above.
> > Why do you think that I want/need to do any of the above ?
> > My reasons for the criticsm of the APR system (and PR in
> > general) may be quite different from what you apparently
> > believe they are. 

>      I have always assumed your reasons were that you had a sincere
> interest in improving the scientific process.  Given the severe criticisms
> you have expressed previously in regard to peer review, I'd certainly be
> interested in knowing what are your true motivations.

OK, OK, charge it on me this time. Although, to express 
your 'true motivations' is a damn difficult business. Most 
people fail, even if they believe their efforts (to explain
themselves) are sincere. (to save the space on this, I refer
you to a longer poster from anonymous colleague which 
I re-posted earlier today). 

> Greg Harriman

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